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Madisonians can listen in to a meeting between Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X

“The Meeting” is a play coming soon to Madison College.

A photo of Martin Luther King Jr meeting Malcolm X at a press conference in Washington DC.jpeg

Civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X meet at a press conference. | Photo via Library of Congress

Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X met just once. It lasted only a few minutes. It was on March 26, 1964, in Washington, DC. They were both on Capitol Hill watching a Senate hearing on ending segregation in public places and racial discrimination in employment.

As King was wrapping up a press conference, Malcolm X approached. They shook hands. They exchanged greetings. Malcolm X said, “I’m throwing myself into the heart of the civil rights struggle.”

By mid-1968, they were both dead, assassinated for their beliefs.

But what if they have had the opportunity to have a deeper conversation?

The play, “The Meeting,” imagines just that. It is being shown at Madison College’s Mitby Theater on Saturday, Feb. 10 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Admission is free, but tickets are required.

We recently sat down with the show’s director, Milwaukee’s Denzel Taylor, to discuss the show.

A portrait of Denzel Taylor, a theater director from Madison. He's wearing a black suit and a white dress shirt without a tie.jpg

Denzel Taylor, from Milwaukee, is directing a play about civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. | Photo via Denzel Taylor

Q: How did you get involved in this production? Why did you want to?

A: The producers of the 2023 Milwaukee Black Theater Festival were in search of a director for this play and I was the name under consideration. I was given the premise and was instantly intrigued. The idea of a conversation between two profound Black men of our history, I felt, offered a range of choice artistically and would be important for not just my own personal growth, but for the greater community. The show was fantastic. Audiences responded positively and passionately at the work. So much so that I was asked to do the show again. I am excited for Madison audiences to see it.

Q: What do you hope audiences take from the play?

A: I hope audiences leave inspired to learn more about not just Dr. King and Malcolm X, but their fellow colleagues in the fight for civil rights. I hope audiences continue the conversation that I believe will be sparked and are further inspired to do their best for their own missions that will serve not just them, but their communities. Dr. King and Malcolm X understood that they themselves are not what’s great, but their missions motivated by visions of the future and their personal histories is what’s great. That is something we all have.

Q: What do you wish people understood about Malcolm X? About MLK?

A: I pray that we can learn to see more of the humanity of Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. without weakening their work and impact. Too often for some, our language idolizes Dr. King and our regard excludes Malcolm X. And for others, their mistakes are too glaring to see anything else. But Dr. King and Malcolm X were men, human beings, like any of us. Their lives had a start, a growth, and an untimely end. I believe the nuance of that journey needs to be more recognized.