Who Was Malcolm X?

Malcolm X was a renowned African American leader in the 1950s and 1960s, known for promoting black nationalism, civil rights and racial pride. He was also a prominent figure in the Nation of Islam organization, which expanded exponentially under his influence. Malcolm X was assassinated in Manhattan on Feb. 21, 1965, while preparing to give a speech at what was then the Faith Temple Church of God in Christ.

Malcolm X was born in Omaha, Neb. on May 19, 1925, with the given name of Malcolm Little. After his father, Earl Little, was assassinated due to his involvement in civil rights activism, the family dispersed, and Malcolm Little embarked upon a lifestyle of drugs and crime on the streets of Boston. He was arrested in 1946 on charges of larceny and sentenced to 10 years in prison. During his incarceration, his visiting siblings introduced him to the Nation of Islam, a black Muslim group, which instilled in him the ideals of black nationalism and the belief that black Americans must establish a separate state in order to excel and achieve true equality and freedom.

As a free man after serving his prison sentence, Malcolm Little changed his name to Malcolm X in 1952 and became a strong advocate for a civil rights revolution by any means, including violence. At odds with the peaceful movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and eventually breaking from the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X embarked on an extended journey to North Africa and the Middle East. After a period of enlightenment, both politically and socially, he converted to traditional Islam and changed his name to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. The transformation to peaceful activism was short-lived, as he was assassinated after returning to America at the age of 39 by members of the Nation of Islam.