Few of these people created as much controversy during the 1960’s then the man who would be known as Malcolm X. Unlike many of the civil rights leaders of the time who promoted non violence, Malcolm X believed in the use of aggressive tactics in his battle for equality. Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925, in Omaha, Nebraska to Earl and Louise Little.His father, a minister and devout Christian, was known for being an outspoken follower of the black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey. Garvey’s message promoted the “back-to-Africa” movement that encouraged African Americans of the time to sever ties with the United States and move back to the continent of Africa which was the homeland. It would be the messages of self reliance learned from his father as well as the whole Garvey movement that would prove to be an important factor to Malcolm’s ideology in his own personal movement.As a child Malcolm’s family was forced to move several times due to racism and threats on his family’s life.
The Little family would move from Omaha after being threatened by members of the Ku Klux Klan a group of white racists known for terrorizing African Americans. While living in a predominantly white neighborhood in Michigan there house was burned down by members of the racist group due to Malcolm’s father involvement in Black empowerment organizations .At the age of thirteen Malcolm’s father was mysteriously murdered and his mother was admitted into a mental hospital forcing Malcolm to live in different foster homes and become separated from his siblings. While living in foster homes Malcolm excelled in school but quickly lost interest after one of his teachers told him it was unlikely for a black man to be successful in this world, humiliating an impressionable young Malcolm. After dropping out of school Malcolm moved to Boston, Massachusetts with his sister and eventually became involved in criminal activity.He began frequenting the area of Roxbury and became fascinated with the fast paced lifestyle. Malcolm began a life of using and selling drugs, home invading, gambling, as well as wearing flashy clothing.
He moved to Harlem in 1942 and continued his rise in the criminal world, becoming known as “Detroit Red” for his reddish brown hair. When the authorities became aware of his illegal activities he returned to Boston. Four years later at the age of twenty, Malcolm was arrested and sentenced to ten years in prison for burglary.It would be the time spent in prison that would transform Malcolm and change him from a career criminal to the activist he would later be known as. He visited the prison library and read books on religion, philosophy, and history. He read and copied the entire dictionary acquiring the skills that would make him a powerful public speaker. He dedicated his time in prison to his own personal development and through his brother Reginald learned of the organization known as the Nation of Islam or the Black Muslims.
The Nation of Islam is an Islamic religious organization founded by its leader Elijah Muhammad which promoted Black separatism from whites culturally, physically, politically and psychologically. Malcolm began to follow the preachings of Muhammad and practiced the religion devoutly, giving up drug use, alcohol consumption, as well as eating pork. Upon his release from prison in 1952 Malcolm traveled to Chicago, Illinois to meet with Elijah Muhammad. Muhammad accepted Malcolm in to the movement and replaced Malcolm’s last name with the letter “X” to symbolize the unknown last name his family lost during slavery.Malcolm was appointed assistant minister of the Detroit Mosque and shortly was sent to organize mosques in Philadelphia and later Harlem. After the success of organizing several mosques throughout the nation Malcolm X became a national spokesman for the Nation of Islam. He became the voice of the organization and a public figure who the media frequently quoted.
His skill at debating allowed him to help spread the Nation of Islam’s message and gain followers of his movement.Malcolm and the Nation of Islam called for his followers to live a life of racial separation. His beliefs showed that he felt that non violent civil rights leaders had achieved nothing and publicly criticized the same leaders and there viewpoints. He was not a supporter of equality gained peacefully, instead he encouraged his followers to fight back against white violence. He attributed the crime rate and economic condition of African Americans to their following the lifestyle of white, western society, and advised Blacks to convert to Islam.It was during the early years of his notoriety that he met a student nurse by the name of Betty Sanders (her name would later change to Shabazz upon converting to Islam). The two were married in 1958 and they eventually had six daughters.
By the late 1950’s the Nation of Islam had moved into the national spotlight amassing a membership of more than one hundred thousand. White Americans began to worry about Malcolm and his message of black supremacy and members of his own organization began to fear that he wanted to take control of the Nation of Islam from Elijah Muhammad.When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, Malcolm made a comment that would anger Muhammad and force him to “silence him” from the media. Feeling betrayed Malcolm decided to leave the Nation of Islam and form his own organization, Muslim Mosque, Inc. He took time to travel overseas to Mecca, Saudi Arabia which is where Islam originated and gained a different perspective and outlook on his own religions after worshipping with people of different races. He no longer believed all white people were evil and felt that he found the true meaning of Islam during his travels.
He decided that he would be willing to work with other black groups as well as progressive white groups. In 1965 Malcolm began holding meetings to formulate his new organization and discuss the policies needed to get things started. On a Sunday afternoon, February 21, 1965, as Malcolm began to address a group attending his meeting he was assassinated. To this day the motive is unknown, but many speculate that it was members of his former group, the Nation of Islam who was responsible.