Biography of Malcolm X
Malcolm X, also known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, was born on May 19, 1925 as Malcolm Little in Omaha Nebraska to Earl Little and Louise Helen. His father was a Baptist lay speaker and supporter of Marcus Garvey and a member of the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Three of Earl's brothers died violently at the hands of white men and one of his uncles was lynched.
Shortly after moving to Lansing, Wisconsin due to death threats from the Klu Klux Klan, Malcolm's father was found having been run over by a car in Lansing. Authorities ruled the death as a suicide, but the black community disputed the cause of death suggesting that the Black Legion, a white supremacist group, had killed Malcolm's father.
After a mental breakdown, Malcolm's mother was declared legally insane on December 1938. Malcolm and his siblings were split up to different foster homes while their mother was committed to the state mental hospital at Kalamazoo, Michigan where she would remain until 26 years later.
In 1946, Malcolm was arrested for burglary trying to steal a watch he left for repairs at a jewelry shop. Two days later he was indicted for carrying firearms, then later charged with Grand Larceny and Breaking and Entering. He was sentenced to eight to ten years in Massachusetts State Prison.
While in prison, Malcolm earned the nickname "Satan" due to his hatred towards the Bible, God and religion in general. While there, he met a self-educated man named Bimbi, who convinced Malcolm to educate himself. Malcolm developed an appetite for reading. After receiving a letter from his brother, Philbert, he began learning about the Nation of Islam. The letter stated, "Malcolm, don't eat any more pork and don't smoke any more cigarettes. I'll show you how to get out of prison."
For the remainder of his sentence, Malcolm maintained contact with Elijah Muhammad, the Nation of Islam's leader. He started to gain fame amongst the prisoners, but remained under the eye of the authorities. He was denied early parole.
In February 1948, Malcolm was transferred to an experimental prison in Norfolk, Massachusetts, that held a much larger library. On August 7, 1952, Malcolm received parole and was released from prison.
Shortly after his release from prison, Malcolm visited Elijah Muhammad in Chicago. He changed his surname to "X", explaining the 'X' is a symbol of rejection of slave names. The 'X' was also branded on many slaves on their upper arm.
In 1954, Malcolm was selected to open a new temple, Nation of Islam's Temple Number Seven, on Lenox Avenue in Harlem. Malcolm rapidly expanded the Nation's membership and became known to a much wider audience. Malcolm was frequently asked questions by print media, radio, and television on different issues.
From his adoption of the Nation of Islam until 1964, Malcolm promoted the Nation's teachings. He referred to whites as "devils" created by a misguided breeding program by a black scientist, and predicted the inevitable and imminent return of blacks to their natural place at the top of the social order.
Malcolm announced his split from the Nation of Islam on March 8, 1964. Only four days later, Malcolm founded the Muslim Mosque, Inc. Although he stayed close to the teachings of the Nation of Islam, he began to modify them. He advocated political and economic black nationalism as opposed to the Nation of Islam's religious nationalism. Malcolm became in contact with several orthodox Muslims, who encouraged him to learn about orthodox Islam. He soon converted and decided to make his pilgrimage to Mecca.
Malcolm's status of being an authentic Muslim was questioned by Saudi authorities because of his inability to speak Arabic and his US passport. Since only confessing Muslims are allowed into Mecca, he was separated from the group and was isolated. He spent 20 hours wearing the ihram. The next morning, after spending the night at the Jeddah Palace Hotel, he was informed that he was a state guest, thus allowed to make his pilgrimage.
On April 19, Malcolm completed the Hajj. While there, he saw Muslims of different races interacting as equals and came to believe that Islam could transcend racial problems.
In June 1964, the NOI sued to reclaim Malcolm's home in Queens, which they claimed belonged to the organization. The suit was successful and Malcom's family were ordered to vacate the house. On February 14, 1965, the night before a scheduled hearing to postpone the eviction date, the house burned to the ground. The family survived, but no one was charged with the crime.
On February 21, 1965 in Manhattan's Audubon Ballroom, Malcolm had just begun speaking before a disturbance broke out in the crowd of 400. A man yelled, "Get your hand outta my pocket! Don't be messin' with my pockets!" As Malcolm and his bodygaurds moved to quiet the disturbance, a man rushed towards Malcolm and shot him in the chest with a sawed-off-shotgun. Two other men charged the stage and began firing handguns at Malcolm. He was shot 16 times. Angry onlookers caught and beat the assassins as they attempted to flee the ballroom. Malcolm was pronounced dead on arrival at New York's Columbia Presbyterian Hospital.
Malcolm X was buried at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.
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