Michael X : biography
Michael X (1933 – 16 May 1975), born Michael de Freitas in Trinidad and Tobago to a Portuguese father and a Bajan-born mother, was a self-styled black revolutionary and civil rights activist in 1960s London. He was also known as Michael Abdul Malik and Abdul Malik. Convicted of murder in 1972, Michael X was executed by hanging in 1975 in Port of Spain's Royal Gaol.
Michael X is the subject of the essay "Michael X and the Black Power Killings in Trinidad" by V.S. Naipaul, collected in The Return of Eva Perón and the Killings in Trinidad (1980). He is also believed to be the model for the fictional character Jimmy Ahmed in Naipaul's 1975 novel Guerrillas.
Michael X is a secondary character in The Bank Job (2008), a dramatisation of a real-life bank robbery in 1971. The film claims that Michael X was in possession of indecent photographs of Princess Margaret and used them to avoid criminal prosecution by threatening to publish them. He was played by Peter de Jersey.
Michael X and his trial are the subject of a chapter in Geoffrey Robertson's legal memoir The Justice Game.
Michael X plays a part in Make Believe: A True Story, a memoir by Diana Athill.
Michael X is the eponymous title of a play by the writer Vanessa Walters. The play takes the form of a 1960s black power rally and was performed at , Powis Square, London W11 (Notting Hill), in November 2008.
Michael de Freitas was born in Trinidad to "an Obeah-practising black woman from Barbados and an absent Portuguese father from St Kitts". Encouraged by his mother to pass for white, "Red Mike" was a headstrong youth and was expelled from school at the age of 14. He emigrated to the United Kingdom in 1957, where he settled in London.Nigel Fountain, Underground: The London Alternative Press, 1966-74, London: Taylor & Francis, 1988, p. 8.
By the mid 1960s he had renamed himself "Michael X" and became a well-known exponent of Black Power in London. Writing in The Observer in 1965, Colin McGlashan called him "the authentic voice of black bitterness."Didion, Joan (12 June 1980) New York Review of Books.
In 1965, under the name Abdul Malik, he founded the Racial Adjustment Action Society.
In 1967 he was involved with the counterculture/hippie organisation the London Free School through his contact with John "Hoppy" Hopkins which both helped widen the reach of the group, at least in the Notting Hill area, and create problems with local police who disliked his involvement. Michael and the LFS were instrumental in organising the first outdoor Notting Hill Carnival later that year.Barry Miles (2010), London Calling: A Countercultural History of London Since 1945, pp. 187-90.
Later that year, he became the first non-white person to be charged and imprisoned under the UK's Race Relations Act, which was designed to protect Britain's Black and Asian populations from discrimination.Eds. (10 November 1967), "Black Muslim Gets One Year in Britain." New York Times. He was sentenced to 12 months in jail for advocating the immediate killing of any white man seen "laying hands" on a black woman.Eds. (30 September 1967), "Michael X On Trial For Race Hate Charges", The Times. He also said "white men have no soul".Katharine Gelber, Speaking Back: the free speech versus hate speech debate, John Benjamins, 2002, p. 105.
In 1969, he became the self-appointed leader of a Black Power commune on Holloway Road, North London called the "Black House." The commune was financed by a young millionaire benefactor named Nigel Samuel. Michael X said, "They've made me the archbishop of violence in this country. But that 'get a gun' rhetoric is over. We're talking of really building things in the community needed by people in the community. We're keeping a sane approach."Eds. (29 January 1970) "London Getting a Black Cultural Leader." New York Times. John Lennon and Yoko Ono donated a bag of their hair to be auctioned for the benefit of the Black House.
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