Freedom Heroes

Malcolm X

by Kash from San Jose

Malcolm X was an influential American advocate of Black Nationalism, and, as a pioneer in articulating a vigorous self-defense against white violence, a precursor of the black power movement of the late 1960s. Born as Malcolm Little in Omaha, he became a rebellious youth after the death of his father in 1931, who the family believed was murdered for advocating the ideas of Marcus Garvey. Malcolm spent a few years in a foster home but became an excellent student and was voted class president. Nevertheless, at the age of 16, he moved east with relatives and drifted to New York City, where he became involved in Harlem's underworld of drugs, prostitution, and confidence games.

In prison for burglary from 1946 to 1952, he read widely and was converted to the teachings of Elijah Muhammad. On his release, he embraced the Black Muslim movement and changed his name to Malcolm X. Following his initial training, Malcolm became the leading spokesman for the Black Muslims to the outside world.

An ideological split developed between Malcolm and the more conservative Elijah Muhammad, and in 1963 Malcolm was suspended as a minister of the Black Muslims. After a pilgrimage to Mecca, he announced in 1964 that he had become an orthodox Muslim and founded the rival Organization for Afro-American Unity. His travel in the Middle East and Africa gave him a more optimistic view regarding potential brotherhood between black and white Americans; he no longer preached racial separation, but rather a socialist revolution.

His career ended abruptly when he was shot and killed in New York City on Feb. 21, 1965, by assassins thought to be connected with the Black Muslims. The Autobiography OF Malcolm X publicized Malcolm's ideas and became something of a classic in contemporary American literature.

Page created on 12/17/2002 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 12/17/2002 12:00:00 AM

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