Malcolm X is a controversial figure. Born in 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska, he lost his father when he was just six, and his mother was in a mental institution by the time he was 13. Left to carve a path for himself, Malcolm X — who was born Malcolm Little — became an active member of Islam. After realizing the name “Little” came from a white slave master, he decided to reclaim his identity by changing his name to Malcolm X.
While Malcolm X’s critics condemned him for preaching racism and violence, those who admired him simply saw him as being harsh on racism. In their opinion, Malcolm X saw the many injustices black Americans were facing and was determined to create a more just nation, no matter what it took.
Malcolm X eventually decided the Nation of Islam had become too rigid, and he broke free of Muslim culture in 1964. A year later, he was assassinated by three members of the Nation of Islam, which happened to be the same year his collaboration with journalist Alex Haley, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” was published. Over 50 years later, one thing is clear: Malcolm X is one of the most influential men in American history.