Tuesday, September 17, 2013


“A friend of mine took me to a SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee] meeting, six or seven months after I was here. At the end of the meeting they announced that buses were going to Montgomery, Alabaman, to demonstrate. I went there, got beaten up, thrown in jail.

They let you make one phone call, and I called the Ugandan Ambassador in Washington, DC, talked to him, and he said, “What are you doing interfering in the affairs of a foreign country?” I said, “What? We just got our independence! This is the same struggle. Have you forgotten?” Anyway, he got me out.

Two or three weeks later, I was in my room. There was a knock at the door. Two gentlemen in trench coats and hats said, “FBI.” I thought, “Wow, just like on television.” They sat down. They were there to find out why I had gone – because this turned out to be big – it is after Montgomery that King organized his march on Selma. They wanted to know who had influenced me. After one hour of probing, the guy said, “Do you like Marx?”

I said, “I haven’t met him.”

Guy said, “No, no, he’s dead.”

“Wow, what happened?”

“No, no, he died long ago.”

I thought the guy Marx had just died. So then, “Why are you asking me if he died long ago?”

“No, he wrote a lot. He wrote that poor people should not be poor.”

I said, “Sounds amazing.”

I’m giving you a sense of how naïve I was. After they left, I went to the library to look for Marx. So that was my introduction to Karl Marx … The FBI.

-- Mahmood Mamdani

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