The University of Rhode Island has removed a partial Malcolm X quote from the facade of its main library 30 years after members of the school’s Black Student Leadership Group and others protested because they said the shortened quote misrepresented the fuller meaning of the civil rights leader’s message.
The inscription on the Robert L. Carothers Library and Learning Commons was installed in 1992 and was meant to be a tribute, but instead, led to the takeover of a campus building, the university said in a statement Friday.
The inscription read, “My alma mater was books, a good library ... I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity.”
The full quote, from “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” reads: “I told the Englishman that my alma mater was books, a good library. Every time I catch a plane, I have with me a book that I want to read — and that’s a lot of books these days. If I weren’t out here every day battling the white man, I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity — because you can hardly mention anything I’m not curious about.”
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The 1992 protesters held a 30-year reunion in November, and it was at that time that school President Marc Parlange, who took over in 2021, pledged to have the quote removed.
“The removal of this inscription started 30 years ago, when a group of URI students had the courage to stand up and speak out against injustices happening at that time,” Parlange said in a statement. “Our university is grateful to those students for their courage, and I am grateful to today’s generation of student leaders who, advocating in that same spirit, continue to inspire our ongoing work to foster a truly inclusive and equitable community.”
Michelle Fontes, who participated in the 1992 protest and now works at the university, welcomed the change.
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“I am happy to have been part of the activism that took place in 1992 and this quote finally being removed is proof that our new administration is listening and striving to do better,” she said.
The university is installing blank panels of matching granite where the quote used to be.
Malcolm X, a leader in the Nation of Islam who advocated for civil rights and Black empowerment, was assassinated in 1965 at age 39.