Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska. Malcolm was exposed to white racism and the black separatist movement at an early age. His father, Earl Little, was a Baptist minister and a follower of Jamaican-born, black nationalist Marcus Garvey.
When the Littles lived in Nebraska, the Ku Klux Klan tried to prevent the Reverend Little from conveying Garvey’s teachings. The Littles consequently left Nebraska, eventually settling in Mason, Michigan, where they found the racial climate no better. In 1929 members of the Black Legion, a white supremacist group, repeatedly burned down the Littles’s home and later murdered Malcolm’s father.
His mom, Louise Little suffered so much that she became unstable and was put in a mental hospital. Malcolm was an excellent student and wanted to become a lawyer until a teacher told him to be realistic and become a carpenter. Not long after that he dropped out of school and moved to Boston.
He became involved in illegal activity and was arrested in early 1946 and sentenced to ten years in prison. Another convict, Bimbi, introduced him to the prison’s extensive library, and Malcolm became a big reader. That is where he found out about Elijah Muhammad the leader of the Nation of Islam and his philosophy that whites were the devil and blacks should separate themselves from white civilization. Upon his release from prison in 1952, Malcolm became a follower of Muhammad. He took the name “Malcolm X” and rose quickly in the ranks of the Black Muslims, becoming Muhammad’s national representative and the leader of the Nation of Islam for a little while. Muhammad sent Malcolm X to different places in the country to start congregations.
In 1955 he met Betty Sanders who was a Nation of Islam member who went by the name Betty X. The were married in 1959 and had six daughters together.Malcolm X was different from all other civil rights leaders because he believed that all people should have the same rights but he did not believe that non violent means would get them to their goal. One of Malcolm X’s famous quotes is “By all means necessary.” Malcolm was a very good speaker and became very famous which caused jealousy with Muhammad. Malcolm had also privately found out about Muhammad’s materialism which caused a further disliking for each other. In 1964 Malcolm proceeded to officially break with the Nation of Islam. He then left the country on a pilgrimage to the Middle East and Africa where he converted to orthodox Islam and took the name Hajj Malik El-Shabazz.
He changed his stance on many issues and tried hard to come off as a less aggressive person. He started his own idea of a group where he would include all races. During this time his conflict with Muhammad got worse and he received many death threats. On February 14, 1965 his home was fire bombed in an attempt to kill him. On February 21, 1965, he was assassinated while addressing an audience of four hundred in the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem.
After he died he was largely viewed as a revolutionary and a large part of the Black Power movement.