The Sacrifices made by our heroes for the freedom we enjoy today are something we will forever cherish. The actions of legends like Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, and many more African Americans will forever be the basis for government and economic decisions.
The famous Black activist, Malcolm X was born in 1925 and was named Malcolm Little. Unfortunately, little Malcolm lost his father at a tender age with all fingers pointing toward white supremacists. His mother was institutionalized for mental health issues causing all the children of the family to be dispersed among foster homes or the homes of relatives.
Malcolm X was an excellent student, but had to drop out of school in the eighth grade; because of the racial discrimination, he faced even from teachers. He was sent to prison in the year 1946 on charges of burglary. His moment in prison would be an inflection point for the philosophical and political trajectory of his life.
Upon his release from prison in the year 1952; he became Malcolm X to show he had rejected his “slave name.” He met with the Nation of Islam’s leader Elijah Muhammad and soon became the sect’s most effective speaker and organizer.
Malcolm expressed the frustration and anger of African Americans toward white American society; and he criticized the civil rights movement and racial integration; calling for Black separatism, Black pride, and the use of violence for self-protection.
Differences with Elijah Muhammad made Malcolm leave the Nation of Islam in 1964. He made a pilgrimage to Mecca which led him to acknowledge the possibility of world brotherhood and to convert to orthodox Islam.
His celebrated autobiography (1965) was detailly written by Alex Haley on the basis of numerous interviews conducted shortly before Malcolm’s death.
His role in the emergence of the Black Power Movement
Malcolm X was one of the most important figures within the American Black nationalist movement. Many of the ideas he propagated, like race pride and self-defense, became ideological mainstays of the Black Power movement that emerged in the 1960s and ’70s.
He first rose to prominence in the late 1940s, as a member of the Nation of Islam, a religious organization that mixes elements of traditional Islam and Black nationalism. He continued his activism after leaving the Nation. His iconic status, if not solidified during his lifetime, was certainly achieved shortly after his death with the publication of the acclaimed The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
His relationship with the civil rights
Malcolm’s ideas were often at odds with the message of the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King, Jr., for example, suggested nonviolent strategies such as civil disobedience and boycotts to achieve integration. While Malcolm advocated for armed self-defense and refused the message of integration as servile.
Malcolm X’s philosophy eventually evolved. He pressed the Nation of Islam to involve itself more in the civil rights movement during his final years in the organization. He also renounced his previously held separatist views after converting to orthodox Islam, and he expressed a desire near the end of his life to working more closely with the civil rights movement.
Some of Malcolm X’s achievements
Malcolm achieved a lot in his life; here are a few;
- In 1953, more than a year after he was paroled from prison, Malcolm was named the minister at the NOI’s Boston mosque.
- Malcolm founded The NOI newspaper, in the year 1957.
- Beginning in the 1960s, Malcolm was invited to participate in numerous debates, including forums on radio stations (Los Angeles, New York, Washington), television programs (“Open Mind,” “The Mike Wallace News Program”), and universities (Harvard Law School, Howard University, Columbia University).
- In 1963, it was reported by the New York Times; that Malcolm X was the second most sought-after speaker in the United States.
- On June 29, 1963, Malcolm led one of the nation’s largest civil rights events, The Unity Rally in Harlem.
- After befriending and ministering to boxer Cassius Clay, the boxer decides to convert to the Muslim religion and join the Nation of Islam. In February 1964, Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali.
- In March 1964, after his split with the NOI, Malcolm formed the Muslim Mosque, Inc. Several months later, he formed the Organizations of Afro-American Unity (OAAU).
Death of Malcolm X
Members of the Nation made threats against his life. He was later assassinated on February 21, 1965, at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem, New York.
Three members of the Nation of Islam; a religious group to which he had once belonged were convicted for his murder. (Two were exonerated in 2021.)