What Did Malcolm X Do in the Civil Rights Movement?

Malcolm X, the African-American activist and minister of the Black Muslim faith, challenged Martin Luther King’s plan for nonviolent integration during the civil rights movement. Malcolm X rejected integration with white Americans and also opposed nonviolence, encouraging his followers to defend themselves against racial aggression with any means necessary.

Born in 1925, Malcolm X was the son of a Baptist preacher who was murdered by white supremacists when Malcolm was 6 years old. After his father’s death, he was placed in a foster home. He dropped out of school after eighth grade to pursue a life a crime. At age 21, Malcolm X was sentenced to prison for burglary, and during his sentence he became a member of the Islamic Nation, popularly known as the Black Muslims. After his release, Malcolm became one of the Islamic Nation’s most influential leaders, strongly advocating black supremacy and separation of white and black Americans.

After a series of disagreements with the leaders of the Islamic Nation, Malcolm X condemned the religion and endorsed the teachings of Sunni Islam. After traveling throughout the Middle East and completing a pilgrimage to Mecca, he returned to the United States to establish his own mosque. He continued to emphasize black power and black self-defense, but he denounced racism. Shortly after his return to the United States, Malcolm X was assassinated by members of the Islamic Nation.