From Detroit Red to Malcolm X
"If you are not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing." Malcolm X
He was loved by many, and hated by many. As cliché as it sounds it was the truth. Malcolm Little was born to Earl Little and Louis Little on May 19, 1925 in North Omaha, Nebraska. Malcolm's father was a Baptist minister and supporter of Black Nationalist Marcus Garvey as well as his wife. She was a home maker and supporter of Black Nationalism. Earl's work as an activist made an impact on the Black community and frightened the white community of Nebraska. The Little family faced many threats from white supremacist organizations such as the KKK ( Ku Klux Klan) and Black Legion. In 1929 the family home was burned to the ground and two years later Earl Little was murdered. His body found attached to a trolley track. The police ruled his death an accident. Following the death of her husband Louise Little suffered mental breakdown and struggled to be a provider for her children. Eventually she was sent to a mental institution while her eight children were sent to foster homes and orphanages.
As a child Malcolm was a bright and charming student. He was voted class president. He had aspirations of becoming a lawyer. His teacher told him " Being a lawyer is not a realistic goal for a Negro. Negroes can't become lawyers. You should become a carpenter, Jesus was a carpenter." Malcolm was adopted by a white family although he believed he was treated like a pet. By the time Malcolm was a teenager he moved to Boston to live with his aunt. Malcolm became a rebel and indulged in a hedonist lifestyle. Malcolm worked as a dishwasher, gangster, hustler, thief, etc. He earned the nickname "Detroit Red" because he had red hair. He often wore his hair in a processed style ( relaxer) with zoot suits. Malcolm spent most of his time with his best friend Malcolm "Shorty" Jarvis. In 1946, they were arrested and convicted of burglary charges. Malcolm X was sentenced to ten years but served only 7 years because of his parole.
While serving his time in prison Malcolm befriended a man named Reginald. Reginald was a member of the NOI ( Nation of Islam). Malcolm developed an interest in the Nation of Islam and began to study the teachings of Elijah Muhammad. Elijah Muhammad's teachings argued that white society had actively made efforts to eliminate African American progress politically, socially, economically. The Nation of Islam advocated Black separatism. The teachings of were modeled after the work and leadership of Marcus Garvey. In 1952 Malcom X was released from prison. He had become an avid follower of the Nation of Islam. He immediately became involved with serving the religious organization.
Elijah Muhammad recognized Malcom's skills as a leader because he was articulate and intelligent. He was appointed as minister and national spokesman for the Nation of Islam. Malcolm was also assigned another task, he was asked to help establish new mosque in cities with large black populations such as Harlem, Detroit, and Chicago. Under Malcolm's leadership the Nation of Islam's membership increased dramatically with only 500 followers in 1952 to 30,000 in 1963. Malcom became a media sensation America was both afraid and infatuated with him. He was not the typical black leader. Malcolm's presence was strong, he was militant and captivating. He caught the attention of the federal government FBI agents monitored the Nation of Islam, one agent acted as Malcolm's bodyguard.
In 1963 Malcolm's relationship with Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam changed. Malcolm learned that Elijah Muhammad had extra marital affairs with women inside of the NOI. Some of these affairs produced children. Malcolm's remarks about President Kennedy's assignation offended many Americans and Elijah Muhammad suspended him for 90 days. In 1964 he terminated his relationship with the NOI and became a Sunni Muslim. Also in that same year he established his own religious organization, the Muslim Mosque Inc. He took his pilgrimage to Mecca that year as well. Upon his return to America Malcolm had a new perspective on integration he wanted to preach his beliefs to all Americans. From a religious context he wanted to adopt the integration model although his emphasis would remain on the process of uplift for African Americans.
There had many attempts on his life. On February 14, 1965 Malcolm's home was firebombed. He and his family safely escaped. The following week on February 21, 1965 Malcolm X was murdered at the Manhattan Audubon Ballroom. He was shot 15 times in close range by three gunmen he was only 39 years old.
Accomplishments of Malcom X:
1957- Malcom X founded the NOI newspaper Muhammad Speaks
1960- Malcolm X was invited to participate in many debates and television programs such as "Open Mind", "The Mike Wallace News Program" and many prominent universities Harvard Law School, Howard University, and Columbia University
1963- On June 29, 1963 Malcolm X lead the Unity Rally in Harlem, one of the nation's largest civil rights events
1964- Malcom X mentored and befriended boxer Cassius Clay he joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali aka The Greatest of All Time
1964- Malcolm X established the Muslim Mosque Inc. organized OAAU ( Organizations of Afro-American Unity)
1965- Malcolm X collaborated with Alex Haley to write his autobiography which was published that same year
The Autobiography of Malcom X Alex Haley
Toni's Thoughts: Malcolm X was the one the greatest leaders Black America ever had. He is one of my heroes I really mean that. I wish more people would have listened to his teaching and I wished his family didn't have to endure so much tragedy following his death. Brutha we miss you and we love you can't believe 50 years have already passed.