Atty. Milton Henry and Malcolm X in Detroit on April 12, 1964
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I arrived home today after being away for most of the
weekend. I now wonder if I stayed away to avoid what
I'm about to relate.
I returned a call from "The Michigan Citizen" and
learned that the Reverend Milton R. Henry, who has
been gravely ill for several weeks, finally made his
transition on the evening of Saturday, Sept. 9, 2006.
It I might, I'd like to offer a thumbnail overview of
his life and contributions. Admittedly, it only
SCRATCHES the surface of both.
For most of his 86 years, the Reverend Henry was one
of the greatest champions for black liberation in the
history of this nation.
Indeed, his love and dedication extended to black and
other oppressed peoples around the world, including in
Africa, Cuba and China, particularly during the
epochal decades of the 1960s and 1970s.
With his younger brother Imari Obadele (formerly
Richard B. Henry), he co-founded several militant
groups, including the Group on Advanced Leadership
(GOAL) in 1962, the Michigan Freedom Now Party (FNP)
in 1963, the Malcolm X Society in 1967 and the
Republic of New Afrika (RNA) in 1968.
He was a member of Detroit's Central United Church of
Christ when its pastor, the Reverend Albert B. Cleage,
Jr., formally embraced black nationalism in 1963.
Four years later, this philosophy evolved into a new
social and spiritual creed, Black Christian
Nationalism (BCN). Thereafter, Central became the
Shrines of the Black Madonna of the Pan African
Orthodox Christian Church (PAOCC) and the Reverend
Cleage took the name Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman.
During this period, the Reverend Henry also had an
African name: Gaidi Obadele.
THE BLACK DEFENDER
The Reverend Henry fought against racism in
employment, housing, the military, public
accommodations, schools and wherever else it reared
its ugly head.
As an attorney who was prone to both rage and weep in
court, he earned the nickname "The Black Defender"
because he boldly faced down racism in the U. S.
He defended civil-rights workers, black nationalists,
socialists, war resisters, victims of police brutality
and anyone else who fought against or suffered under
an unjust status quo.
Because of his fiery advocacy of black rights and his
defense of the oppressed, he was placed on the FBI's
"Security Index" to be apprehended in times of
He was also subjected to "counter-intelligence" dirty
tricks two years before Director J. Edgar Hoover's
infamous anti-black and anti-dissent campaign became
official policy under the name COINTELPRO.
The Reverend Henry counted among his comrades Black
Power advocate Stokely Carmichael (later Kwame Ture),
Malcolm X (who was as close to him as a blood brother)
and Robert F. Williams, the first modern African
American leader to call for and practice armed
self-defense against racist violence, who was the
first president of the RNA.
The Reverend Henry was a co-convener of the historic
National Negro Grass Roots Leadership Conference, held
at Kelly's Lounge and King Solomon Baptist church from
Nov. 9-10, 1963. Historians now credit this
conference for helping to lay the philosophical
foundation for the Black Power movement three years
Here the Reverend Henry recorded the first of three
major Detroit speeches by Malcolm X, all of which were
posthumously released as long-playing records:
1) "Message to the Grass Roots."
2) "The Ballot or the Bullet," delivered at a GOAL
Legal Fund rally, also held at King Solomon Baptist,
on April 12, 1964.
3) "The Last Message," delivered at a black image
awards ceremony organized by the Reverend Henry at
Ford Auditorium on Feb. 14, 1965. Rivals from Elijah
Muhammad’s Nation of Islam (NOI) had firebombed
Malcolm X’s home early that same morning.
However, Malcolm X was so committed to supporting his
friend that he made the engagement, despite suffering
from smoke inhalation. It was not his last speech,
but his "last message" to Detroit. He was
assassinated by the NOI a week later.
CALL OF GOD
In his later years, the Reverend Henry followed the
call to the ministry as an extension of his service to
"the least of these." He founded and pastored Christ
Presbyterian Church in Southfield, MI.
I've been advised that the arrangements for his
homegoing service are as follows:
WHERE: Christ Presbyterian Church
23795 Civic Center Drive
Southfield, MI 48033
WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 17, 2006
9:30 a. m. (family hour)
10:30 a. m. (service)
Funeral arrangements are being handled by Cobb's
Funeral Home, 151 Orchard Lake Rd., Pontiac.
Finally, the Hon. Jo Ann Watson, Detroit City Council
member, will be spearheading a public tribute to the
Rev. Henry in the near future.
It will be preceded by a "Media Tribute," including a
two-part illustrated feature article in "The Michigan
Citizen" and one and perhaps two special episodes of
Ms. Watson's "Wake Up, Detroit" radio and television
program on WHPR.
Arrangements for the tributes will be announced after
his homegoing service.
Please pray for the Reverend Henry's family, friends
and parishioners during this time. I have the honor
Like you, one of his countless beneficiaries,
1) The Reverend Henry is amused by Malcolm X's
remarks at a news conference at the Group on Advanced
Leadership (GOAL) headquarters, 11605 Linwood,
Detroit, April 12, 1964.
Later that evening, Malcolm X delivered a version of
his famous "The Ballot or the Bullet" speech at King
Solomon Baptist church at 14th and Marquette. (CORBIS