[Editor’s note: The following article contains excerpts of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan’s July 20, 1980 message of the same name delivered at the Institute of Positive Education in Chicago, Illinois. To order this message in its entirety, please call 1.866.602.1230, ext. 200.]

In The Name of Allah, The Beneficent, The Merciful.

The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan

“Integration” vs. “Separation”: Which Way Should We Go?” For some of us, the word “integration” conjures up a lot of the pictures of the “1960s” when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and so many of our Black leaders and a host of young men and women went into the streets and marched for integration of public places such as restaurants, hotels, motels, rest rooms, etc.;

Marching and suffering for a “Voting Rights” Bill because these wonderful brothers and sisters and these well-meaning leaders of our people felt that it was time that Black people share in “The Promise” of America. That “promise” being “liberty and justice for all,” “a piece of the economic pie”; that “promise” being “full-fledge citizenship” with all of the rights and privileges of that citizenship.


On the other hand, there was the principle teacher of “separation,” the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad.

We know that before the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, the great and Honorable Marcus Garvey advocated separation. We know that Noble Drew Ali also spoke of separation. We know that the Communist Party back in the 1920s and 1930s also advocated separation.

Although decades have gone by since the principle advocate of separation stood up, the issue of “separation” became a great issue when President Abraham Lincoln was on the scene, and other presidents after him, where there was this constant battle of 1) “Should the descendants of African slaves in America stay, and we become a part of the American way of life?” or 2) “Should we, as Black people, leave and return to our own self, our own kind, our own people and become an independent nation?”

Today, we have to look at the “Integration” and “Segregation,” and behind these words discover meaning, and behind the meaning discover the intent of the parties who are advocating either way.

If the intent of the Government in advocating integration is to trick us into believing that our 400-year-old enemy has now become our “friend,” and that we should forgive and forget and be glad to take part in this great American way of life, then the intent is evil. So the result of such evil intent can never bring justice to a people who are aggrieved.

We now have to know not just the word and what it means, but we have to analyze the motivation as best we can of the United States government in advocating integration for Blacks. Then, we have to look at the practicality of “integration” or “separation”—which will work? And if integration will work, how? If separation will work, how? And then let’s come to an equitable agreement on what we shall do.

Understanding ‘segregation’, ‘separation’ and ‘integration’

What is “segregation”? When people criticized the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, they said “Oh, that man wants segregation!”—but what does it mean? Segregation is “separation of an inferior by a superior.” In the house where we grew up, mother and father told us which entrance to come in, do you remember? That is, if we had two entrances to our door or house; sometimes it was only one­, and you had to come in there. But if mother fixed her living room up real pretty and didn’t want you messing it up, she would tell you before she went to work: 

“Don’t go in that living room”—these are orders from your superior; and if you venture into that living room with your company, “You’re going to get it when I come home. In fact, I don’t want you having any company in my house when I’m gone! Do you understand?” And you always said, “Yes, yes, I understand Mom/Dad.” That’s “segregation,” which is enforced on by “superiors.”

Integration, many times forced under armed guard, (right photo) decimated Black institutions in America. Photos: MGN Online.

The condition that you are in here in America is definitely an inferior one, right? You don’t have any money, you haven’t made a way for yourself, you’re not bringing any food in the house, so “mother” has the right to tell you when to come, when to go and what room you are going to stay in. And if you “act up”: “Go to your room and stay there.” That’s “segregation,” brothers and sisters. Mr. Muhammad couldn’t be advocating that! That is what White people set up in order to set themselves apart from you and me.

The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad

They were in the superior position while we were in the inferior position, so they set us apart: “You go over there, you live on that side of the tracks and you’d better not cross over.” This is the way it’s been, and every time we moved we’ve had to pay a price for disobeying the unwritten rule of a man who thinks he’s superior that he put on a people that he has relegated to an inferior position. So we understand “segregation.”

Now, “separation” is a little different from “segregation”. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad has said to us that separation is a voluntary act done by two equals who realize that they cannot get along in peace, so they come to a decision that it is “best for us to separate: You go your way, I’ll go mine.”

And within the word “integrate” is the word integer which, in Mathematics, is a term that means “something that is whole; a whole number.” The reason you call a whole number an “integer” is because that which is now “whole” at one time was a fraction; so when you bring a fraction into a whole number, you have brought it from a part to a whole and you call that whole an “integer.” The word “integrate” or “integration” conveys a similar meaning: “People who are separate, we want to make them whole, so we develop a policy that will bring them together.”

While in Mathematics it is the process of finding the “least common denominator” to bring a fraction into a whole number, in politics you evolve a policy—which is really a “strategy”—to bring dissimilar things together into a whole.

The Strategy of those who want to continue Oppression

Notice that I said “integration in politics” is a policy which indicates a “strategy.”

America is considered “the melting pot” of the world, right? The Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor has on it, “… Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” This is really not talking to the world at large; it’s talking to Europe because “The Golden Door” means that America is to represent “heaven” for European refugees.

America has been a land of opportunity for Italian, Greek, Polish, Irish and Russian immigrants, is that right? For Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians; for Spaniards, Portuguese, French and Dutch people. … They all have come to America, and the policy, the strategy, of the United States government is to minimize their cultural heritage back in Europe and to maximize an “American heritage” so that they could be integrated into the fabric of what is called “American Society.”

Though they say “Anglo-American,” “Italian-American,” “Greek-American,” “Polish-American,” or “this American, that American,” they all feel more akin to America than they do to the land that they are refuges from, and this means that they have successfully been integrated into “American society.” So, the policy (strategy) of the United States government has worked for all Caucasians; these that have been integrated into American society are of the same racial strain, but of different ethnic backgrounds (some a little darker, some a little lighter; some a little blond, some a little brunette, but they’re all the same people).

But here is another “ingredient”… When it comes to “Asiatic” or “African” people, you’ve got something different now that has entered into this “American society.” But to this very day, the Chinese are not integrated, the Japanese are not integrated—and they don’t ask for it. They run their own “China Town,” their own “Japanese Town,” would you agree?

Their own politics run their neighborhoods, and they have their own separate economy inside the main American economy. Everybody makes their way, because they understand something that you have yet to understand. They understand that they don’t have to be White to get out of the American economy. Their unity, their intelligence and their skill will enable them to get support for their own separate identity and their separate community yet within the body politics of the United States.

Due to faulty leadership, you and I have not yet realized that we can maximize our own strength in America and yet be separate from America and grow powerful. We feel that the only way to be successful is to “get in” with White folks, be like White folks! Do what pleases White folks: Laugh for them, dance for them! Give your woman to them! Send your sons and daughters off to fight for them! You haven’t realized how to maximize your own strength in your own vital numbers.

But White people know your potential power, and they have said: “We cannot afford segregation anymore because the n- – – -rs aren’t going to take it. They are too militant now for us to tell them where to go, how to go, when to go. So we’ve got to abandon this as a strategy, as a policy. We cannot afford to grant them separation and let them build a nation of their own.

Even though they are big enough to have a nation, we can’t let them do this because if they become an independent nation, and join the community of nations and look out in the world market for help from other nations to help them get up on their feet, pretty soon they may join on to our enemies and come against us because they may remember what our fathers did to their fathers. So we cannot let them go….

We must not ever let ‘Negroes,’ ‘n- – – -rs’ or ‘Colored people’ even entertain the idea that they should have a nation of their own. That is unthinkable! We must make them think that everything that they want, everything that they need, they must seek it from us.”

So a strategy was evolved into a “policy,” and that policy became the pride of the government under John F. Kennedy, and it became the cry of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, and it became the cry of all sick and affected Black leaders who have always felt that “unless we are approved by White people, we are not approved at all”; unless we get some certificate from them saying “You’re okay,” you are really not okay. So if you were looking at “separation” from the viewpoint of a White oppressor, separating a Black nation out from a nation founded in White Supremacy-based ideals is “crazy,” “absolutely insane” and “madness”!

“Integration”: The Trick to make you think you’re ‘free’, ‘equal’

“Integration” has destroyed the Black institutions of education. In the South, when you were in school under Black teachers, you had to know something about Black history on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. Because of the education you received, this caused you to grow up with a degree of pride in the accomplishments of Black people, feeling, knowing and believing that you also could achieve. And even though you left the South and came North, you came North with a spirit to achieve.

And although when you got out of those Black high schools; and after those Black colleges wherein you learned whatever you learned and became a teacher some other profession, when you went to the big White Universities for your Masters or Doctorate degrees, your roots were so strong because of that segregated learning.

However, when they broke up segregation (which kept you together, but separate in an inferior position), they thought that integration would make you better. But if you go back down South now you’ll see that they’re going to schools and they have no knowledge of Black accomplishments. This isn’t even being taught anymore in southern schools! The Black colleges are being systematically closed up or integrated into a major university system.

And Black hospitals that were flourishing in southern towns are closed up today and Blacks have no medical facilities in most of the major cities of the South and you are forced now to go into White hospitals to deliver your baby, not knowing whether you are going to come out with a baby, or not! You are forced to go to White hospitals for them to experiment on you because you thought integration meant freedom, and you found that integration was a trick.

White people never intended for you to be a “full American” sharing in the rights and privileges of America. Since “integration” has been advanced as a policy and a strategy, White people know that it has failed. They don’t admit openly its failure, but there’s a pullback now from all of the issues that were sent through the integration policies, such as “bussing.” “I’m going to bus you out of your neighborhood and take you to a better school where you can learn. …” 

And where is this “better” school? Wherever White folks are, that’s the “better” school. But now White people are saying “I don’t want them nrs in our neighborhood! I ain’t bussing my children into no Black neighborhood to achieve no ‘racial balance’—that’s out!” And they’ve gotten so strong now that they have made school boards pull back; the federal government is pulling back and the mood in the country now is shifting

Now what is it that White people never wanted to do? They never wanted to let you go. their thinking is being turned by events in the international world and events on the national scene. Today’s international pressures, domestic pressures, the forces of nature that are at work are absolutely forcing White people to take a stand—a very militant, anti-Black stand.

The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said to us that Allah (God), Master Fard Muhammad, had The Power to turn their minds and force them to do what He Wills against their own will. He said Master Fard Muhammad has The Power to make them bow to His Will … And the Bible teaches that “every knee will bow and every tongue will be forced to confess.”

Whether you want to or not, circumstances will force you to do the very thing you don’t think you will ever do.

“The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said that The Essentials of Life are Freedom, Justice and Equality. Anything that deprives you of freedom, deprives you of justice, deprives you of the essentials of life. If this world of the Caucasian is a world designed to deprive you and me, Black people, dark people and their own people, of Freedom, Justice and Equality, then this means what? That separation is absolutely vital to your own life.”