Malcolm X, originally known as Malcolm Little, was an African American civil rights activist whose aggressive stance on issues of right of black people made him an equally popular and controversial figure during the civil rights movement. He was an eminent figure in the Nation of Islam, a coming together of Islamic ideologies with black nationalist ideas. A vocal supporter of violence against the whites, his way of demanding justice often had him chided by his contemporaries like Martin Luther King Jr who were peace-loving. Malcolm X is hugely popular amongst the African American and Muslim communities for his fiery speeches and ability to fight for the cause of the oppressed. On his 95th birth anniversary, we take a look at the life and times of Malcolm X.
Life and Times of Malcolm X
- Malcolm X was born on May 19, 1925, in Nebraska to Louise Helen Little and Earl Little. His father was a former supporter of black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey and died after being run over by a streetcar.
- Malcolm X excelled in school, but an argument with his teacher meant he dropped out in the eighth grade. He had a rebellious personality and soon found himself involved in crime like drugs supply and robbery.
- He remained in prison between 1946 to 1952 and underwent conversion, which played a huge role in him joining the Nation of Islam.
- On the advice of his brother Reginald, he quit smoking and stopped eating pork in order to comply with the dietary regulations of Nation of Islam.
- His meeting with Elijah Muhammad in Chicago in 1952 was significant, which marked the beginning of the golden period of Nation of Islam.
- He founded the newspaper – Muhammad Speaks, which played a huge role in fundraising and was an important recruitment tool for the movement.
- In order to expedite the growth of the Nation of Islam in America, Malcolm X set up several of its temples. Prominent amongst those where Temple Number 11 in Boston, Temple Number 12 in Philadelphia and later worked as the leader of Temple Number 7 in Harlem.
- His work as the leader of Temple Number 7, the largest and most prominent temple of the Nation of Islam saw him rise to the rank of National Representative of Nation of Islam.
- Between 1955 and 1965, Malcolm X became the major phase of the aggressive faction of the civil rights movement.
- Malcolm X and Martin Luther King both fought for the rights of the oppressed African Americans but took up a completely different path. King's non-violence message was met by Malcolm's "defend through any means possible".
- He took to the streets of Harlem and spoke at major universities like Harvard and Oxford often criticising in harsh tone the state of the American society.
- Malcolm and Elijah Muhammad started to grow differences in 1963 over the way the movement was heading to. Malcolm called for the Nation of Islam to take part in widespread civil disobedience movement with Elijah Muhammad showing little interest.
- Elijah Muhammad's order of 90 day period of silence for Malcolm post his controversial statement involving John F Kennedy's assassination proved to be the final nail in the coffin of their companionship.
- Malcolm X founded the Muslim Mosque Inc in April 1964 and took a pilgrimage to Mecca the same year.
- He embraced Sunni Islam and adopted the name Hajj Malik El-Shabazz giving up on the aggressive beliefs.
- Malcolm X was assassinated by three members of the Nation of Islam while he was delivering a lecture on February 21, 1965, at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem.
Malcolm X’s 95th Birth Anniversary: Remembering The Fiery Yet Controversial Black Rights Activist
Famous Quotes by Malcolm X
- Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.
- You can't separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.
- Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you're a man, you take it.
- The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.
- People don't realize how a man's whole life can be changed by one book.
Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery.
- I'm for truth, no matter who tells it. I'm for justice, no matter who it's for or against.
- You're not to be so blind with patriotism that you can't face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.
- If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.
- 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 the next time.
Malcolm X was a mass leader whose life inspired millions to speak for the oppressed. Many of his ideas may not have found a place in civil society, but there is no denying the fact that Malcolm X fought for the oppressed.