Malcolm X is one of the most fascinating historical figures of the 20th century, so much so that he often seems more a reflection of the politics than the reality of the man. His real name was Malcolm Little and he was an African American Muslim human minister and a courageous advocate for the rights of African Americans. He indicated white American in the harshest terms for its misconducts against black Americans.
Malcolm X, Early Life
Born on May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska, Malcolm X had a very harsh childhood. He was the fourth of eight children to Louise and Earl Little. His father was a preacher and an active member of the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Because of his father’s civil rights involvement, the Little family was often subjected to harassment from white supremacists, who allegedly killed him.
Malcolm was kicked out of his school in 1938. Then, he had to spend a lot of his time in a detention home for the young in Mason, Michigan. The detention home was run by a white couple. In his autobiography, Malcom wrote about his experience there. According to him, he was treated more like a “pet canary” or a “pink poodle” there. Malcom attended Mason High School and excelled academically. However, in 1939, when he told his English teacher that he wanted to be a lawyer, he discouraged him. After such a sobering experience, Malcom’s attitude towards white establishment sourced. He dropped out of school the following year.
After quitting school, he moved to Boston to live with Ella – his older half-sister. Soon, he got caught up in a life of drugs and crime. In 1946, he was arrested for larceny and then sentenced to a decade in jail. His time in prison would change him greatly.
Transformation in Prison
Malcom spent a lot of time reading while he was in prison. Hel also joined group of Black Muslims called Nation of Islam. He took the name Malcom X upon leaving prison.
Minister for the Nation of Islam
As a free man, Malcolm X moved to Detroit, where he worked with the Nation of Islam’s leader Elijah Muhammad. He became the minister of a few temples, i.e. Temple No. 11 in Boston and Temple No. 7 in Harlem. He also founded new temples in Philadelphia and Hartford. In 1960, he established a national newspaper called Muhammad Speaks to further promote the Nation of Islam’s message. Because of his efforts, the Nation of Islam grew from just 400 members to 40,000 members in less than a decade.
Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.
Malcolm X had emerged as a leading voice of the Civil Rights Movement by the early 1960s, presenting a philosophical alternative to the vision of Martin Luther King Jr. i.e. a racially-integrated society achieved through peaceful methods.
Pilgrimage to Mecca
In 1963, Malcolm X learned that his mentor and hero Elijah Muhammad had flagrantly carried several extramarital affairs and hence, violated many of his own teachings. Malcom’s feelings of betrayal, along with Elijah’s anger over Malcom’s insensitive comments about the President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, led him to leave the Nation of Islam in 1964.
That same year, he embarked on an extended trip through the Middle East and North Africa. He converted to traditional Islam when he performed the Hajj in Mecca. There, he also changed his name to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz.
After his pilgrimage to Mecca, Malcom X returned to his home country more optimistic and less angry about the prospects for peaceful resolution of the race problems of America. His new outlook could have been a turning point but unfortunately, his life was cut short. He was killed by three members of the Nation of Islam on February 21, 1965 in Manhattan. Or so we thought, recent events have shed light on the possibility that this was orchestrated by local authorities and the FBI. Not everything is clear at the moment, but it definitely disrupts previously beliefs.
Most Notable Work
Malcolm X’s writings and speeches are considered his most notable work and rightly so, they became a legacy of ideas, sayings, arguments, and critiques for the black poor that would ultimately codify as “Black Power Thought”. His speeches and his life in general helped to spark the drive toward a new black pride and black consciousness. They also played a key role in the thrust to eradicate the term “Negro” and to popularize the terms “Afro-American” and “black” – identity concepts with which black people could feel more authenticity and affinity. Malcom’s great influence upon the political and social thinking of American black is legendary.
What Makes Malcom X a Black Sheep?
Malcom X has been called one of the most influential and the greatest African Americans in history. He was instrumental in forging the movement of radicalism and black power that departed from Martin Luther King’s non-violent approach. He became a widely celebrated and respected member of the Muslim-American and African-American communities because of his relentless pursuit of racial justice. Such determination and achievements make him a Black Sheep of the month.
Despite his brief life, Malcom X remains a symbol of the African American quest for equality and freedom. His work and his legacy have informed and inspired many others in their fight for social equality and justice. Through his autobiography, as well as other books, movies, and documentaries, he remains a historical figure admired by all generations.