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Malcolm X
A 38-year-old man in a suit and tie smiles broadly. He wears glasses and has a microphone around his neck.
Malcolm X in March 1964
Born
Malcolm Little

(1925-05-19)May 19, 1925
Died February 21, 1965(1965-02-21) (aged 39)
Cause of death Assassination (multiple gunshots)
Resting place Ferncliff Cemetery
Other names el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz (الحاجّ مالك الشباز)
Occupation Minister, activist
Organization Nation of Islam, Muslim Mosque, Inc., Organization of Afro-American Unity
Height 6 ft 3 in (191 cm)
Movement Black nationalism,
Pan-Africanism
Spouse(s) Betty Shabazz (m. 1958)
Children Attallah Shabazz
Qubilah Shabazz
Ilyasah Shabazz
Gamilah Lumumba Shabazz
Malikah Shabazz
Malaak Shabazz
Parent(s) Earl Little,
Louise Helen Norton Little
Signature
Malcolm X Signature.svg

Malcolm X (born Malcolm Little, later Malik el-Shabazz; May 19, 1925 – February 21, 1965) was an American Muslim minister and human rights activist who was a prominent figure during the civil rights movement. A spokesman for the Nation of Islam until 1964, he was a vocal advocate for Black empowerment and the promotion of Islam within the Black community.

Early years

1930 census Little
A 1930 United States Census return listing the Little family (lines 59ff)

Malcolm X was born May 19, 1925, in Omaha, Nebraska, the fourth of seven children of Grenada-born Louise Helen Little (née Norton) and Georgia-born Earl Little. Earl was an outspoken Baptist lay speaker, and he and Louise were admirers of Pan-African activist Marcus Garvey. Earl was a local leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and Louise served as secretary and "branch reporter".

Because of Ku Klux Klan threats, Earl's UNIA activities were said to be "spreading trouble" and the family relocated in 1926 to Milwaukee, and shortly thereafter to Lansing, Michigan. There, the family was frequently harassed by the Black Legion, a White racist group Earl accused of burning their family home in 1929.

When Malcolm was six, his father died. To make ends meet, Louise rented out part of her garden, and her sons hunted game.

In 1938, Louise had a nervous breakdown and was committed to Kalamazoo State Hospital. The children were separated and sent to foster homes.

Malcolm attended West Junior High School in Lansing and then Mason High School in Mason, Michigan, but left high school in 1941, before graduating. He excelled in junior high school but dropped out of high school.

From age 14 to 21, Malcolm held a variety of jobs while living with his half-sister Ella Little-Collins in Roxbury, a largely African-American neighborhood of Boston.

After a short time in Flint, Michigan, he moved to New York City's Harlem neighborhood in 1943, where he found employment on the New Haven Railroad.

In 1946, Little was put in prison for burglary and discovered the Nation of Islam while he was there.

Activism

Malcolm X NYWTS 4
Malcolm X, after his 1964 pilgrimage to Mecca

From his adoption of the Nation of Islam in 1952 until he broke with it in 1964, Malcolm X promoted the Nation's teachings. These included beliefs:

  • that Black people are the original people of the world
  • that White people are "devils" and
  • that the demise of the White race is imminent.

Malcolm X was critical of the civil rights movement. While the civil rights movement fought against racial segregation, Malcolm X advocated the complete separation of African Americans from Whites. He proposed that African Americans should return to Africa and that, in the interim, a separate country for Black people in America should be created. He rejected the civil rights movement's strategy of nonviolence, arguing that Black people should defend and advance themselves "by any means necessary". His speeches had a powerful effect on his audiences, who were generally African Americans in northern and western cities. Many of them—​tired of being told to wait for freedom, justice, equality and respect—​felt that he articulated their complaints better than did the civil rights movement.

Malcolm X is widely regarded as the second most influential leader of the Nation of Islam after Elijah Muhammad. He was largely credited with the group's dramatic increase in membership between the early 1950s and early 1960s (from 500 to 25,000 by one estimate; from 1,200 to 50,000 or 75,000 by another).

On March 8, 1964, Malcolm X publicly announced his break from the Nation of Islam. Though still a Muslim, he felt that the Nation had "gone as far as it can" because of its rigid teachings. He said he was planning to organize a Black nationalist organization to "heighten the political consciousness" of African Americans. He also expressed a desire to work with other civil rights leaders.

After leaving the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X founded Muslim Mosque, Inc. (MMI), a religious organization, and the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), a secular group that advocated Pan-Africanism. On March 26, 1964, he briefly met Martin Luther King Jr. for the first and only time—​and only long enough for photographs to be taken—​in Washington, D.C., as both men attended the Senate's debate on the Civil Rights bill at the US Capitol building.

In April, Malcolm X gave a speech titled "The Ballot or the Bullet", in which he advised African Americans to exercise their right to vote wisely but cautioned that if the government continued to prevent African Americans from attaining full equality, it might be necessary for them to take up arms.

Death

Malcolm X was shot dead in New York City after preaching about black rights. Three members of the Nation of Islam had a part in his murder.

Personal life

He had six children with Betty Shabazz. He had six grandchildren. Malcolm Shabazz died in May 2013. He also has two great grandchildren.

Legacy

Malcolm X has been described as one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history. He is credited with raising the self-esteem of Black Americans and reconnecting them with their African heritage.

Memorials and tributes

Malcolm X Blvd street sign
Malcolm X Boulevard in New York City

The house that once stood at 3448 Pinkney Street in North Omaha, Nebraska, was the first home of Malcolm Little with his birth family. The house was torn down in 1965 by new owners who did not know of its connection with Malcolm X. The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

In Lansing, Michigan, a Michigan Historical Marker was erected in 1975 on Malcolm Little's childhood home. The city is also home to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz Academy, a public charter school with an Afrocentric focus. The school is located in the building where Little attended elementary school.

In cities across the United States, Malcolm X's birthday (May 19) is commemorated as Malcolm X Day. The first known celebration of Malcolm X Day took place in Washington, D.C., in 1971. The city of Berkeley, California, has recognized Malcolm X's birthday as a citywide holiday since 1979.

In 1996, the first library named after Malcolm X was opened, the Malcolm X Branch Library and Performing Arts Center of the San Diego Public Library system.

The U.S. Postal Service issued a Malcolm X postage stamp in 1999. In 2005, Columbia University announced the opening of the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center. The memorial is located in the Audubon Ballroom, where Malcolm X was assassinated. Collections of Malcolm X's papers are held by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and the Robert W. Woodruff Library.

After a community-led initiative, Conrad Grebel University College in Canada (affiliated with the University of Waterloo) launched the Malcolm X Peace and Conflict Studies Scholarship in 2021 to support Black and Indigenous students enrolled in their Master of Peace and Conflict Studies program.

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See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Malcolm X para niños

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