Malcolm X was an aggressive civil rights leader back in the early 1950s, who many African American people looked up to. Malcolm X was well known for his aggressive approach and harsh criticism of “White America”. Although he didn’t become known until he joined NOI and became an outspoken advocate for them, which led him to quickly rise and grow into who he is today.
Malcolm X or Malcolm Little (as he was first known as), was born in 1925 in Omana, Nebraska. He was the son of a Baptist preacher named James Earl Little. James advocated the black nationalist ideals of Marcus Garvey, which led him to be a huge target to the Ku Klux Klan or also known as the KKK. After receiving multiple threats from the KKK, they moved to Lansing, Michigan, where James continued to preach to African Americans about taking back their lives. When the white supremacist heard about it, they sent more threats to them, before finally having enough of his preaching and beating James to death and telling people that he committed suicide. James’s death took a huge toll on his wife, and she got taken away and sent to a mental health facility, which led to James and his siblings being taken away and put in a foster home.
When Malcolm Little was younger, he went to Pleasant Grove Elementary before moving on to William Mason and finally going to West Junior High School, where he dropped out at age 15 in 8th grade for a life of crime. After dropping out of high school, he moved in with his sister Ella to Boston where he learned how to resist white power by getting involved with Boston’s black criminals. While doing crime in the streets of black mecca, Harlem he became known as Detroit Red. He continued to do crime for 5 years with the underground criminals until he got caught doing multiple burglaries in Boston and was convicted and sentenced up to ten years in prison. While he was doing jail time he quickly gained the nickname “Satan” because of his fiery personality, but he had one person who could see through the act. One of the older prisoners, John Elton Bembry, convinced Malcolm to start reading more and taught him about the teachings of Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the group Nation of Islam.
After getting out of jail he and his siblings joined the Nation of Islam, where he spent his time working his way up to becoming a strong critic of America. At the age of 27, Malcolm X became the Chief Minister of the nation’s largest Harlem temple called, No. 7. He preached about racism and self-defense aggressively while encouraging violent protests against White America. His preaching gained him a lot of admiration, but it also made people fear him in the black and white community because his preaching not only went against Martin Luther King’s but it could also cause a lot of unwanted deaths. Malcolm being the prominent apostle to Elijah Muhammad not only taught but was taught Elijah’s teachings. Muhammad taught people that black people were the original race while white people were little devil’s. He promised a future where blacks were no longer oppressed and had financial independence for blacks. He even taught racial separation rather than integration and a strict code of moral behavior. When Malcolm X started getting more recognition than Muhammad, he started to get jealous.
Malcolm X soon realized that Muhammad was lacking in sincerity when he failed to join the civil rights struggle and Muhammad started to feel threatened. Malcolm decided to comment on President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and by saying “the chickens coming home to roost”, Elijah suspended him from the group. After leaving the group Malcolm decided to travel to Mecca where he learned new teachings that made him rethink everything he learned from Muhammad. He had discovered that orthodox Muslims preach equality of all races, they had shown him a completely new way of thinking about things and it made him change his mindset. When he got back to America, he changed his name to El-Shabazz and went back to preaching in a whole new way. After Mecca, Malcolm started his organization called the Afro-American Unity or OAAU. He offered programs like the “Basic Unity Program” that taught restoration, reorientation, education, economics, security, and self-defense as a means of promoting Pan-African unity and interests. He built the group in the hope to help end discrimination against African Americans. He wanted people to ditch words like “negro,” “integration,” or “emancipation”.
The group focused more on education to try and fix the damages of slavery, economic discrimination, and physical violence directed towards African Americans. Which gained the group a lot of attention from people who wanted self-empowerment or just supported what he was doing. During a Rally in New York for the Afro-American Unity, a group of black Muslims from the Nation of Island was sent to kill him. While he was in the middle of giving a speech, a member named Thomas Hagan shot and killed Malcolm who died at the age of 39. Malcolm’s sister Ella ended up taking over the OAAU, but without his leadership, members started leaving and the group later on ended disbanding. Even tho the OAAU is gone people still continue to appreciate the things Malcolm has done for the community.
- History.com Editors. “Malcolm X.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 29 Oct. 2009,https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/malcolm-x.
- Malcolm X Assassinated.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 24 Nov. 2009,https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/malcolm-x-assassinated.’
- Malcolm X.’ Gale In Context Online Collection, Gale, 2017. Gale In Context: HighSchool,https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/HDAQVG663899021/SUIC?u=sacr86436&sid=SUIC&xid=885cd9ea. Accessed 12 Sept. 2019.
- Murphy, Jessica. “50th Anniversary of Malcolm X’s Assassination: His Legacy Lives On.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 24 June 2019, https://www.biography.com/news/assassination-of-malcolm-x.
- Shmoop Editorial Team. “Malcolm X, A.k.a. Malcolm Little, Detroit Red, El Hajji Malik El-Shabazz in The Autobiography of Malcolm X.” Shmoop, Shmoop University, 11 Nov. 2008, https://www.shmoop.com/the-autobiography-of-malcolm-x/malcolm-x.html.
- New York Public Library. NYPL, Malcolm X: A Search for Truth, http://web-static.nypl.org/exhibitions/malcolmx/growing.html.