The Demonization of Malcolm X, The Sanitization of Dr. Martin Luther King

This lecture challenges the ways in which two icons of the 1960s, Dr. King and Malcolm X, are popularly characterized as rivals. Dr. Nebil Husayn argues that the two icons, in fact, represented a radical black tradition of political action that was subversive to narratives of American exceptionalism. As a consequence of myth-making and a process of collective remembering and forgetting, Dr. King is largely sanitized of this radicalism, which lingers with the legacy of Malcolm. Dr. Husayn argues that such mythmaking is also apparent in how we conceive of our presidents, police officers, and to the detriment of black activists, those who devote themselves to racial justice.

Nebil Husayn teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Miami. His research explores authoritarianism in the Middle East, debates on the caliphate, and the development of Islamic thought. Dr. Husayn began his work as an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, where he studied Arabic, Persian, Islamic history and Muslim cultures before pursuing study abroad in Syria and Yemen for four years. During his time abroad, he pursued a seminary education with traditionally-trained Sunni and Shiʿi scholars. Dr. Husayn returned to the United States to obtain an M.A. in Arabic and Islamic Studies from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University. He is the recipient of a Fulbright award and the University of Miami Fellowship in the Arts and Humanities. The family of the Prophet Muhammad, Ali b. Abi Talib, and their descendants (known as Alids) occupy a central place in his research. Husayn’s first book, Opposing the Imam (2021), published with Cambridge University Press, examines the history of early Muslims who were hostile to Islam's fourth caliph, Ali, and his descendants. Husayn aims to continue interrogating the intellectual and political histories of the Alid family in his future work.

Thursday, September 15, 2022 at 6:00pm to 7:30pm

Event Type



Diversity & Inclusion, Ethics & Leadership, Law & Politics, Journalism & Media


Students, Faculty, General Public

College, School & Unit

Arts & Sciences


Religious Studies
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