- NAME: Malcolm X
- OCCUPATION: Civil Rights Activist, Minister
- BIRTH DATE: May 19, 1925
- DEATH DATE: February 21, 1965
- EDUCATION: West Junior High School
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Omaha, Nebraska
- PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York
- Full Name: Malcolm Little
- AKA: el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz
- AKA: Malcolm X
- AKA: El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz
Best Known For
African-American leader and prominent figure in the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X articulated concepts of race pride and black nationalism in the 1950s and '60s.
Malcolm X - Mini Biography (4:52)
Watch a short video about Malcolm X and discover the roots of his dedication to equality.
Malcolm X speaks to reporters about the Black Nationalist Movement and the need to establish Black Rifle Clubs.
A short biography of Malcolm X, who rejected the Civil Rights Movement's stance on nonviolence and preached black pride through his devotion to the Nation of Islam.
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The turning point in Malcolm X's childhood came in 1939, when his English teacher asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up and he answered that he wanted to be a lawyer. His teacher responded, "One of life's first needs is for us to be realistic ... you need to think of something you can be ... why don't you plan on carpentry?" Having thus been told in no uncertain terms that there was no point in a black child pursuing education, Malcolm X dropped out of school the following year,
at the age of 15.
After quitting school, Malcolm X moved to Boston to live with his older half-sister, Ella, about whom he later recalled, "She was the first really proud black woman I had ever seen in my life. She was plainly proud of her very dark skin. This was unheard of among Negroes in those days." Ella landed Malcolm a job shining shoes at the Roseland Ballroom. However, out on his own on the streets of Boston, Malcolm X became acquainted with the city's criminal underground, soon turning to selling drugs. He got another job as kitchen help on the Yankee Clipper train between New York and Boston and fell further into a life of drugs and crime. Sporting flamboyant pinstriped zoot suits, he frequented nightclubs and dance halls and turned more fully to crime to finance his lavish lifestyle. This phase of Malcolm X's life came to a screeching halt in 1946, when he was arrested on charges of larceny and sentenced to ten years in jail.
To pass the time during his incarceration, Malcolm X read constantly, devouring books from the prison library in an attempt make up for the years of education he had missed by dropping out of high school. Also while in prison, he was visited by several siblings who had joined to the Nation of Islam, a small sect of black Muslims who embraced the ideology of black nationalism—the idea that in order to secure freedom, justice and equality, black Americans needed to establish their own state entirely separate from white Americans. Malcolm X converted to the Nation of Islam while in prison, and upon his release in 1952 he abandoned his surname "Little," which he considered a relic of slavery, in favor of the surname "X"—a tribute to the unknown name of his African ancestors.
Now a free man, Malcolm X traveled to Detroit, Michigan, where he worked with the leader of the Nation of Islam, Elijah Muhammad, to expand the movement's following among black Americans nationwide. Malcolm X became the minister of Temple No. 7 in Harlem and Temple No. 11 in Boston, while also founding new temples in Harford and Philadelphia. In 1960, he established a national newspaper, Muhammad Speaks, in order to further promote the message of the Nation of Islam.
Articulate, passionate and a naturally gifted and inspirational orator, Malcolm X exhorted blacks to cast off the shackles of racism "by any means necessary," including violence. "You don't have a peaceful revolution," he said. "You don't have a turn-the-cheek revolution. There's no such thing as a nonviolent revolution." Such militant proposals—a violent revolution to establish an independent black nation—won Malcolm X large numbers of followers as well as many fierce critics.
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