almamater When you enter the main library at the University of Rhode Island, you pass between two inscriptions carved in black granite.

One is from Thomas Jefferson: “Enlighten the people … and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day.”  

The other is from Malcolm X: “My alma mater was books, a good library … I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity.”

The quotes inscribed on the library were chosen from among student submissions, and according to the artist who prepared them, it was not until after the stones carved that it became known that the Malcolm quote was incomplete. Here is the quote as it appears in his autobiography:

My alma mater was books, a good library. Every time I catch a plane, I have with me a book 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’t hardy mention anything I’m not curious about.

–Malcolm X.

The unveiling of the bowdlerized quote in the fall of 1992 sparked protest from students of color on the RIU campus, helping to provoke a sit-in that won the creation of a major in African and African-American studies at the university. 

Happy Birthday, Malcolm.