Famous quote: “By any means necessary.” Malcolm X
Malcolm Little was born May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska. He was the fourth of seven children of Louise Helen Little and Earl Little. Both his parents were admirers of the Pan- African activist Marcus Garvey, and his father, who was an outspoken Baptist was also the local leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). His parents, particularly his father received several threats from white racist groups which ultimately led to the untimely death of Earl when Little was 6. Although the official report was that Earl died from a streetcar accident, Louise believed her husband was murdered by Black Legion (a white racist group).
After the death of her husband, Louise rented out part of her garden while her sons hunted game in order to make ends meet. In 1937, she began dating a man but unfortunately, he vanished from her life as soon as she became pregnant with his child. A year later, Louise had a nervous breakdown and was admitted to Kalamazoo State Hospital. Her children were separated and sent to foster homes.
Malcolm Little was a bright student and did well in school, but he dropped out after a white teacher told him that practicing law, which was his dream at the time, was “no realistic goal for a niggar”. From age 14, Little was engaged in different illegal jobs; drug dealing, gambling, robbery, racketeering and pimping. In 1945, he was arrested for burglary and was sentenced to eight- ten years at Charlestown State Prison.
“My alma mater was books, a good library… I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity.” — Malcolm X
During his time in prison, Malcolm met the man who helped shape his life, a fellow convict by the name John Bembry. Malcolm described him as “the first man I had ever seen command total respect…with words”. Bembry’s influence caused Malcolm develop an immense appetite for reading. Meanwhile, his family wrote to him about the Nation of Islam, a new religious movement that preached black self-reliance and freedom from white domination. As time went by, Malcolm stopped smoking cigarettes and avoided pork. In 1948, he wrote to Elijah Muhammed, the leader of the Nation of Islam, who advised him to renounce his past and submit himself to Allah. Henceforth, Malcolm became a member of the Nation of Islam, and kept regular contact with Muhammad. In 1950, Malcolm began signing his name “Malcolm X”. He later explained that the ‘X’ symbolized the true African family name he would never know, and replaced the white slave master name ‘Little’.
After his parole in 1952, Malcolm visited Elijah Muhammad. A year later, he was named assistant minister of the Nation’s Temple Number One in Detroit. Malcolm served very successfully and recruited many members on behalf of the Nation of Islam. In 1958, Malcom X married Betty Sanders, who changed her name to Betty X. They had six daughters.
Malcolm was very eloquent, and had the physical looks to match, making him the second most influential leader of the Nation of Islam after Elijah. He inspired many people, including the famous boxer Muhammed Ali to join the Nation. In fact, Malcolm and Ali became very close friends.
“There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance next time.” — Malcolm X
A few years later, Malcolm had a falling apart with the Nation of Islam. He realized that Elijah Muhammad was not really the man he thought he was. He confirmed that Elijah was having illicit sexual relationships with young Nation secretaries. Also, when members of the Nation were involved in a violent confrontation with LAPD officers in 1961, Elijah refused to support Malcolm’s call for a strong and direct action against the police.
“The thing that you have to understand about those of us in the Black Muslim movement was that all of us believed 100 percent in the divinity of Elijah Muhammad. We believed in him. We actually believed that God, in Detroit by the way, that God had taught him and all of that. I always believed that he believed in himself. And I was shocked when I found out that he himself didn’t believe it.” — Malcolm X
After leaving the Nation of Islam, Malcolm converted to Sunni Islam. He became very popular and the media wrote about him all the time. This made Elijah very envious. Malcolm founded Muslim mosque inc. , and the Organization of Afro- American Unity, a secular group that advocated for Pan- Africanism.
“I believe in a religion that believes in freedom. Any time I have to accept a religion that won’t let me fight a battle for my people, I say to hell with that religion”—- Malcolm X
Malcolm performed the pilgrimage to Mecca in April 1964. He encountered some problems along the way because of his U.S. citizenship and inability to speak Arabic, but his journey was eventually successful. In fact, Prince Faisal had designated him as a state guest. This holy journey Malcolm describes, made him realize that Islam was the solution to racial problems.
“I am not a racist. I am against every form of racism and segregation, every form of discrimination. I believe in human beings, and that all human beings should be respected as such, regardless of their color.” — Malcolm X
Malcolm travelled all around the world, visiting countries in Africa, and Europe. He met many prominent leaders and spoke on the media and large gatherings. However, his conflict with the Nation of Islam heightened. He received numerous threats and there were several attempts on his life. On February 21, 1965, while preparing to address the Organization of Afro-American Unity in Manhattan, Malcolm was assassinated by members of the Nation of Islam. Autopsy revealed he had sustained 21 gunshot wounds. His funeral was attended by more than 20,000 people. His murderers were convicted of first degree murder.
“It is a time for martyrs now, and if I am to be one, it will be for the cause of brotherhood. That’s the only thing that can save this country.” — February 19, 1965 (2 days before he was murdered by Nation of Islam followers) — Malcolm X
Malcom X is known as one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history. He played a big role in spreading Islam to the Black community in United States, and fought white supremacy. Many books have been written about him, and many movies have been produced in his memory. The world lost a great man the day he died. May Allah (s.w.t) grant him Jannatul Firdaus.
Famous quote: “By any means necessary.” Malcolm X