Civil rights activist Malcolm X was born on May 19, 1925. During his lifetime, he rose to the national stage as a leading voice that advocated for black self-determinism and self-defense. His influence led to the growth of the Nation of Islam (NOI) from a mere 400-member organization in the 1950s to 40,000 by 1960. His legacy and work still inspire and inform us about equality and social justice, immortalizing him as a historical figure revered by all generations! Let’s pay homage to the legend by knowing more about him!
Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little, was born in Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.A. His father, Earl Little, was a local leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association or UNIA and a Baptist minister. His mother, Louise Helen Little, was the national secretary of the Marcus Garvey Movement from the 1920s to 1930s. Malcolm X had six siblings.
Malcolm X witnessed and experienced racial violence since his early childhood. His father’s civil rights activism invited death threats from the Black Legion, a white supremacist terrorist organization, which forced the family to relocate in 1926 to Milwaukee and then to Lansing, Michigan. In 1929, Malcolm X’s Michigan home was burned to the ground and his father was found dead; the police ruled both incidents as accidents. After her husband’s demise, Malcolm X’s mother suffered financial and emotional hardships for several years and was committed to a mental institution in 1938 after having a nervous breakdown. Her kids were separated amongst different orphanages and foster homes and she was released 24 years later. Malcolm X dropped out of school in 1941 despite his talent, because a white teacher told him that his aspiration to practice law as a black man was not realistic. From age 14 to 21, he lived with his sister in Roxbury, Boston, and worked various jobs. In 1943, he moved to Harlem, New York. Three years later, he was convicted on burglary charges and sentenced to ten years in prison (paroled in seven years). However, Malcolm X used this time to self-educate. His brother, Reginald, was a part of the Nation of Islam (NOI) and inspired Malcolm X to study the teachings of Elijah Muhammad — the leader of NOI.
After his parole in 1952, he joined the NOI as a minister and national spokesman, eventually emerging as one of its most important and well-known leaders. He left the organization in 1964. After surviving various attempted assassinations, Malcolm X was murdered on February 21, 1965, by three gunmen, who were later discovered to be members of NOI. About over 14,000 people attended his funeral and his legacy has moved through generations.
Having almost tripled the membership of the Detroit NOI temple in less than a year, Malcolm X is appointed as its assistant minister.
Malcolm X becomes the chief minister of Harlem’s Temple Number Seven.
He makes his first trips abroad to Sudan, Ghana, Egypt, Iran, and Syria, among other nations, and appears in Mike Wallace’s documentary “The Hate That Hate Produced.”
He delivers his iconic speech titled “The Ballot or the Bullet.”
He speaks at a convention in Manhattan, before getting assassinated onstage.
Why We Love Malcolm X
He was an ardent civil rights supporter
Malcolm X never stopped campaigning for black rights, not even after receiving constant death threats during the last two years of his life. He was ultimately killed because he did not stop working for our advancement — which, we think, is the epitome of love.
A testament to personal reform
It was during his time in prison that Malcolm X immersed himself in reading and self-enlightenment. The leader found God within the walls of a federal penitentiary. Moreover, he never went back to the world of crime after his release and led others away from vice instead.
He inspired a movement
Malcolm X’s ideas, speeches, and martyrdom paved the way for the development of the Black Power movement. His words popularized the values of black power, economic autonomy, self-defense, and racial pride in the 1960s, and continue to do so.
5 Surprising Facts
His ancestral roots were unknown
In 1950, he began signing his name as “Malcolm X” as his familial roots were obscured by the slave trade that stripped him of his real ancestral surname, while the surname “Little” was considered a tool of oppression and imposition.
He once opposed integration
At one point in his life, the leader promoted the idea of separation as opposed to the civil rights movement’s emphasis on integration with white society.
He established his own organizations
After leaving NOI in 1964, Malcolm X found the Organization of Afro-American Unity and Muslim Mosque, Inc.
His influence on hip hop
Several hip-hop artists, such as Tupac, Lakim Shabazz, and KRS-One all drew inspiration from Malcolm X.
The eternal reverence
Several notable artists have honored his name in their stage names as a sign of respect, such as X Clan, Sadat X, and Mia X.
Malcolm X FAQs
Why did Malcolm X change his surname?
He changed his surname as he viewed “Little” as an imposition on his paternal forebears by a white slavemaster.
What did Malcolm X say to Martin Luther King?
Malcolm X often criticized King for subjugating blacks to their oppressors. He believed that non-violence is fine as long as it works.
Was Malcolm X married?
Yes, he was married to Betty Shabazz — an educator and activist also known as Betty X.
Malcolm X’s birthday dates