Malcolm X was an African American Leader during the Civil Rights Movement. He believed in self defense and urged Africans Americans to protect themselves against white hostility. Malcolm was born in Omaha, Nebraska. He had eight siblings. His father, Earl Little, was an outspoken minister, civil rights activist and a supporter of Black Nationalist leader Marcus Garvey. Malcolm’s family received many death threats from the white supremacist organization called “Black Legion” due to his father’s activism.
Those threats led the family to move twice before Malcolm’s 4th birthday. Despite their attempt to escape, their home in Michigan was burned to the ground. Two years later, Earl’s body was found lying across the town’s trolley trucks. The family knew Black legions were responsible but police ruled it as an accident. Afterwards, Malcolm’s mother had a breakdown and she stayed at a mental institution. The kids were split up between foster homes and orphanages.
Later in life, Malcolm and his best friend moves back to Boston. In 1946, they were arrested and convicted of robbery charges. Malcolm was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He used that time to reflect and educate himself. During that time, his brother Reginald would visit him and talk about his recent conversion to Muslim religion. Reginald was a member of the religious organization called the Nation of Islam (NOI).
Malcolm was enlightened and began to do research on the teachings of NOI leader Elijah Muhammad. Elijah taught that whites intentionally prevented African Americans from being successful and attaining economic, social and political success. By the time Malcolm got out of prison, he was a faithful follower and changed his surname to “X”. He believed “little” was a slave name so he changed it to mark his lost tribal name.
Malcolm was very charismatic and very effective in his speech. He was nominated as a minister and a representative for the NOI. He initiated new mosques in cities like Detroit, Michigan and Harlem, New York. Malcolm used tools like radio and television to spread NOI’s message across the U.S. and his personality attracted many new members.
However, Malcolm felt betrayed in 1963 when he found out about Elijah’s affair with six other women within the NOI and some of these affairs resulted in children. Malcolm turned down Elijah’s request to cover up the affairs and children. In 1964, Malcolm concluded his connections with the NOI and found his own religious organization, the Muslim Mosque. That same year, he went on a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. He shared his thoughts and beliefs with different cultures.
Afterwards, the relation between Malcolm and Elijah became very disruptive. Malcolm was marked for assassination. In 1965, at a speech in Manhattan Audubon Ballroom, three people shot Malcolm onstage. He died in the age of 39.
How was Dr. King and Malcolm X different?
Dr King and Malcolm X had different approaches to the civil rights movement. Both men were born in the 1920s and both of their fathers were politically active preachers. Dr. King grew up in a stable middle-class home in Georgia. Malcolm grew up in poverty and violence since very young age. He dropped out of school and drifted towards life of crime.
King and Malcolm X had different strategies in the Black freedom movement. Dr. King strongly believed in non-violence and civil disobedience as the tool to fight racial prejudice in America. Meanwhile, Malcolm believed that Blacks should act in self defense against white aggression. He criticized King’s approach as passive and too cooperative to whites. Malcolm and King met only once on Capitol Hill during a senate debate on the Civil Rights Act of 1964.