Minister Louis Farrakhan, “Million Man March,” Teaching-Learning Materials

Classroom Activities

A. What were Farrakhan’s goals in his speech? Discuss what phrases, arguments, or images influenced your response. 

B. What were Farrakhan’s central arguments? What evidence and secondary arguments does Farrakhan offer to support his larger claims?

C. How do Farrakhan’s characterizations of the nation’s presidents and his retelling of American history bolster his arguments? How do they hurt his arguments?

D. Who were Farrakhan’s audiences for this speech? What were the central features of each audience?

E. Would you consider yourself part of Farrakhan’s audience? Why or why not? What reasons influenced your response?

F. How might Farrakhan’s ethos or credibility influence his audiences’ responses? In what ways might his ethos influence the different audiences’ reception of the speech?

G. Farrakhan uses the terms “you,” “we,” and “us” throughout his speech. Locate three instances in which he uses one of these words. To whom is he referring to in each instance? Are they always the same?

H. What are Farrakhan’s messages to the men at the event? What does he ask them to do?

I. How does Farrakhan’s use of the word “nation” promote multiple meanings in the speech?

J. Does the speech’s organization help or hinder your understanding of the speech?

K. Who are Allah, Moses, Jesus, and Elijah Muhammad and what are the Koran, the Bible, and the Torah? How might these references appeal to or turn off Farrakhan’s different audiences?

L. What does Farrakhan identify as the “root of the problem”? How does he purport to address and eliminate this problem?

M. What injustices against blacks does Farrakhan describe? What solutions does he offer to improve the social, economic, political, and legal status of black Americans? Farrakhan has been called a “separatist.” What does this mean? What is his plan for black and white relations? How do his views differ from an “integrationist’s” views?

N. What does Farrakhan argue is the real cause for black oppression? How does he propose to address and eliminate this problem?

O. What message does Farrakhan offer to “those of you watching television?” Based on Farrakhan’s comments, to whom do you think he is referring?

P. What advice does Farrakhan offer to President Clinton? What critiques does he make? Why might Farrakhan be viewed a credible critic of the president?

Q. What charges does Farrakhan make against white society?

R. What actions does he ask black men to do in their own communities? How might these actions help promote the larger black civil rights cause?

Student Research 

A. Use three different sources (e.g., one newspaper, one opinion magazine, and one website) to learn more about how people responded to Farrakhan’s speech. What different interpretations were there of the address? Which sources provided favorable reviews? Which sources provided unfavorable reviews? How might the media coverage have shaped the interpretations of the event? How might this apply to other events?

B. Compare and contrast Farrakhan’s speech with Clinton’s “Racism in the United States” speech (link to other VOD unit), which the President delivered on the morning of the Million Man March. What similarities exist between the two speeches? What differences exist? What reasons may account for these similarities and differences?

C. Some critics have argued that Farrakhan’s retelling of American history contains some inaccurate information. Research one fact that Farrakhan presents and determine its validity. Does the accuracy of the fact affect Farrakhan’s overall message? How does your knowledge of the accuracy affect your interpretation of the speech?

D. Research the 1963 March on Washington D.C., and read a copy of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, “I Have a Dream Speech.” How are King’s 1963 and Farrakhan’s 1995 civil rights marches and speeches similar? How are they different? (Take into account goals, attendees, messages, and any other factors that you deem significant).

E. Perform three separate searches on an electronic database using the search term “Farrakhan” and the dates 1/1/1980 to 12/30/1989, 1/1/1990 to 12/30/1999, and 1/1/2000 to the present. Read at least five newspaper or magazine articles from each search and create a list of the different topics and issues each article discusses.  What similar themes or topics are mentioned in each of the time periods? What new themes have developed over time? What is Farrakhan doing now?

F. Using the search term “Farrakhan,” perform a search for scholarly articles on an academic database like Proquest or Lexis-Nexis. What types of journals contain studies about Farrakhan? What topics are addressed in these studies?

G. Who was Marcus Garvey? When did he live? What was the purpose of his United Negro Improvement Association? How might his views have influenced Farrakhan?

H. Using the search terms “Katrina,” “victims,” and “treatment,” perform a search on an online database or news source of your choice. What social issues addressed in the post-Katrina coverage resemble those Farrakhan discussed in the mid-1990s?

I. Interview three family members who were alive during the 1960s. What memories do they have of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X? How do their memories compare with their impressions of Farrakhan? Make note of any differences or similarities they mention and whether they view each leader positively or negatively.

J. Ask three family and/or community members what they remember about the Million Man March and record their responses. What commonalities exist between their responses? What differences exist?

K. Listen to one of Farrakhan’s recent webcasts (http://www.noi.org/av_webcasts.htm).
What similarities exist between his current rhetoric and his speech at the Million Man March? What differences exist between the two?

L. Visit the Nation of Islam website (www.noi.org). What is the organization’s
mission? What are its goals? Who does it claim to represent? What demands does
it make?

M. Visit the Millions More Movement website (http://www.millionsmoremovement.com/index_flash.html). What are the movement’s goals? How are they similar to the Million Man March’s goals? How are they different? What other differences and similarities do you notice between the two causes?

Citizenship Resources 

A. Identify one black leader who supported the Million Man March. Using a research method of your choice, locate more information about this leader and his or her position on civil rights. How does his or her position compare with your views on civil rights?

B. Visit your college or university’s diversity center or a similar place. What cultural icons do they recognize in their pictures, pamphlets, or programs?

C. Does your college have a Black Studies, African American Studies, or another similar culturally-based program? What courses does your college or university offer to promote cultural understanding and diversity?

D. What civil rights organizations exist in your local area or state? What are their missions? What type of events do they host in your area?

E. What civil rights memorials, street names, or buildings exist in your town or city? Whom do they recognize? Why might they memorialize this person?

F. Watch the Kanye West video at (http://www.millionsmoremovement.com/news/kanye07-25-2005.htm). What issues does he raise in his speech/song? How are these concerns similar to or different from the views Farrakhan discussed? How are they similar to or different from your views about the issues he raises?

G. Watch Erykah Badu’s interview at (http://www.millionsmoremovement.com/news/erykah_badu.htm). What issues does she address in her comments? How are these views similar or different from Farrakhan’s? How are they similar to or different from your views about the issues she raises?

H. Review your own video or DVD collection and think about the movies you have seen. Which movies perpetuate stereotypes about blacks as being criminals, drug dealers, or unemployed? Which types of movies portray this image? What movies have you seen that offer positive portrayals of African Americans? What images did they present? How are Latino/a Americans, Asian Americans, Jewish Americans, Arab Americans portrayed, Anglo Americans or other groups portrayed? How might these portrayals (positive and negative) shape your understanding of issues of race in the United States?