Black History Month: Malcolm X

Malcolm X

(May 19, 1925 – February 21, 1965)


12th - Malcolm X blkNwht


[su_note note_color=”#40cd11″ radius=”5″]Noteworthy Accomplishments & Historical Facts [su_list icon_color=”#191f17″]
  • One of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history
  • The second-most influential leader of the Nation of Islam (after Elijah Muhammad)
  • Credited with raising the self-esteem of Black Americans and connecting them with their African heritage
  • Responsible for the spread of Islam in the Black community in the US; increasing the Nation’s membership by the thousands
  • The Father of Black Power – Influenced the Black Power and Black Arts Movements
  • He was firm to his principles, but wise enough to reevaluate his beliefs and make changes when he deemed change was right
  • Founded Muslim Mosque, Inc. and the Organization of Afro-American Unity
  • Established a national newspaper, Muhammad Speaks
  • The most sought after speakers on college campuses

The Story of Malcolm Little

Malcolm X (born Malcolm Little), was born on May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska. He is the fourth of seven children born to Earl and Louise Little (Louise had a child with another man after the death of her husband). Earl was an outspoken Baptist leader and local leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). He made certain to instill the values of self-reliance and Black pride in his children. Earl’s teachings of the UNIA values in the community caused problems for him and his family, as the Klu-Klux-Klan (KKK) began threatening him. 

Due to the threats of the KKK, Earl decided to move his family out of Omaha, and headed to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. However, the problems with the KKK persisted, and the Little family relocated to Lansing, Michigan, shortly after the move to Milwaukee. In Lansing, the Little family was frequently harassed by the Black Legion, a white racist group. The family’s home was burned, while the white firefighters stood outside and watched it burn instead of attempting to put out the blaze; the suspected arsonists, the Black Legion. 

In 1931, when Malcolm was six, Earl died, it was officially documented as an accident since he was run over by a streetcar. However, Louise felt that he was murdered by the Black Legion; however, this was never proven. Also, there was an insurance policy on Earl, and when Louise tried to collect, the insurance company told her that his death was ruled a suicide, so therefore, the claim is not valid. One can see there is a lot of controversy surrounding the death of Malcolm’s father. 

Louise continued to raise her children for about seven years before she was committed to a mental institution, and the Little children were placed in separate foster homes. During the time she was at home with the kids, Malcolm excelled in school, he was even voted class president; however, he felt that the children in the class treated him more as a pet than a human because he was the only black kid in the class. Malcolm dropped out of school after junior high after a conversation with a white teacher. The teacher asked, what he would like to be when he grew up, Malcolm responded, a lawyer. His teacher informed him that, that was “no realistic goal for a nigger.”

The Emergence of “Detroit Red” – the Hustla

12th - Malcolm Detroit RedAfter dropping out of school and being placed in a foster home when his mother was committed to a mental institution, Malcolm moved with his half-sister, Ella, to Boston. Shortly after that move, he went to Flint, Michigan, and finally on to Harlem, NY in 1943. While in Harlem, he became involved in drugs, drug dealing, gambling, racketeering, robbing, and pimping. These are considered the dark days of the man so little talk about in mainstream media.

This phase of his life came to a halt when he was arrested for larceny and sentenced to 10 years in jail.

Becoming “X”

In jail, Malcolm began devouring books to make up for the years of lost education caused by him dropping out of school. During that time, he was visited by several of his siblings talking to him about the Nation of Islam (NOI)a small sect of Black Muslims who embraced the ideology of Black Nationalism—the idea that in order to secure freedom, justice and equality, Black Americans needed to establish their own state entirely separate from white Americans. Malcolm, converted to the NOI while in prison, and upon his release in 1952 he abandoned his surname “Little,” which he considered a relic of slavery, in favor of the surname “X”— a tribute to the unknown name of his African ancestors.

Under the Influence of the NOI

Upon his release from prison, Malcolm, traveled to Detroit, MI, where he worked with the leader of the NOI, Elijah Muhammad, to expand the movement’s following among Black Americans nationwide. Under the influence of the NOI is where he adopted some of his more radical views, such as separatists views, noting that Blacks and whites could never integrate and be civilized. He later, wished he could take back some of the things that he said and did under the NOI’s influence. He also proposed that Blacks should return to Africa, and that a separate country for Black people should be established within America in the interim. These ideas were widely radical; however, they were brought on by his teachings, and his beliefs then, under the influence of the NOI.


Malcolm X met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr for the first time on March 26th, 1964.
Malcolm X met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr for the first time on March 26th, 1964.

Malcolm, decided to part ways with Elijah, when he felt betrayed by him. He found out that Elijah had been going against some of his teachings, such as sex out of wedlock and extramarital affairs. Malcolm come to find out that Elijah had affairs with many women who were followers of the NOI, as well as fathered kids with them. When confronted, Elijah tried to use biblical verses to justify what he did; Malcolm wasn’t hearing it. 

When he parted ways, he planned to organize a Black nationalist organization to “heighten the political consciousness” of Black Americans, and he planned to meet with other Civil Rights leaders – something that Elijah prevented him from doing while serving the NOI.

Misconception of Malcolm

Part of the reason Malcolm X, is not taught in schools, or even regarded as a person of significance in the effort to liberate Blacks in America, or the fight for human rights, is because some people in America feel that he advocated violence. Malcolm was a non-conformist, he was getting his point across by any means necessary. He commanded an audience with his voice, with his words – he commanded attention that most people could not. He was seen as a threat because he awoke a sense of pride, self-worth, and courage among Black people. Because of this, his story is constantly pushed in the background.

Malcolm was angry, because Blacks were angry, but instead of sparking riots he incited deep self pride and linked the civil rights struggle to human rights. While the Civil Rights Movement fought against racial segregation, he advocated the complete separation of Blacks from whites. Malcolm was the yin, and Martin was the yang – he preached “by any means necessary” and Martin, “non-violence, non-violence.” It needs to be understood that Malcolm was not talking about unprovoked violence against whites, he was simply advocating that Black people should have the right to defend themselves by any means necessary against the aggression of whites. 

It also needs to be understood, there was a time were MLK was considered dangerous and hated too, but he was looked at as more tolerable than Malcolm because he quietly made his point, while Malcolm lit fires within people! Malcolm was a man extremely committed to the cause of liberating Black people. His message had a powerful effect on Blacks who were tired of being told to wait for freedom, justice, equality, and respect. Especially, if all men are supposed to be created equal. They felt that Malcolm articulated their complaints better than the Civil Rights Movement did.

Those extreme segregationists views were his views while he was a part of the NOI; they were very radical, but he came to realize that those views were not correct. He discovered this after he journeyed all over the world, and met Orthodox Muslims, whom were getting along well with integrated races. In Africa, he saw white students helping black students; it was these moments which made him realize that Blacks in America did not need to be separated. His heart softened towards whites, and he admitted his previous views were wrong. He stood for self-reliance, Black pride,knowledge of self, and fearlessness in the face of overwhelming odds – more importantly, not above admitting when he was wrong.

His Contribution to Blacks and Society

Malcolm ignited a fire within Black people that made them feel proud to be Black, made them feel that they don’t have to sit there any take the constant abuse which was bestowed upon them as a result of oppression. The Black Power and Black Arts Movements were both inspired by his teachings. He also took the race issues out of America, making it a global issue, unlike the Civil Rights Movement which focused more on what was happening in America. Perhaps Malcolm X’s greatest contribution to society was underscoring the value of a truly free populace by demonstrating the great lengths to which human beings will go to secure their freedom. “Power in defense of freedom is greater than power in behalf of tyranny and oppression,” he stated. “Because power, real power, comes from our conviction which produces action, uncompromising action” (Biography).

Malcolm X, was assassinated on February 21, 1965, at the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan, where Malcolm X was about to deliver a speech, three gunmen rushed the stage and shot him 15 times at point blank range.


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