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Mr. Malcolm "X" Little - Radical Brilliance
Martin Luther King Jr. is often looked upon as the sole leader in the American Civil Rights Movement, however this assumption is wrong. There were a number of other people associated with the movement, who are often overshadowed by the fame of MLK Jr. One of these people was named Malcolm “X”. Malcolm was a hero in the eyes of blacks around the world, a man who stood up to America in all of its power. However, in the eyes of his critics, he was a racist, a black supremacist, and a zealot. In reality, he was somewhere in between, and his ideas, whether founded in extremism, brilliance, or a blend of the two, were founded upon what he had experienced during his lifetime.
Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925, in Omaha, Nebraska. His father Earl was a devoted follower of the teachings of Black Nationalist leader Marcus Garvey, and was also a prominent Baptist minister. Earl’s beliefs drew a number of death threats from the Black Legion, a white supremacist organization. In fact, before Malcolm’s fourth birthday, the family had been forced to move twice. In 1929, the family’s home was burned to the ground, and only two years later, Earl was tied to a set of trolley tracks in Lansing, Michigan. Malcolm’s mother, Louise, was placed in a mental institution several years later after a breakdown. The children were distributed among a number of orphanages and foster homes.
As a child, Malcolm was a very intelligent and focused student. He had dreams of one day becoming a lawyer; however these were destroyed when his favorite teacher told him that it was “no realistic goal for a n*****.” Malcolm dropped out of school, and became deeply involved in crime, his intelligence propelling him to the top rungs of the ladder quickly. After a move from Harlem to Boston, Malcolm and his friend Malcolm “Buddy” Jarvis were convicted of burglary, and they were sentenced to ten years in prison, although our Malcolm was released after seven years with parole. During his time in prison, Malcolm continued his education where he had left off. He also became interested in the Muslim faith and the teachings of an organization called the Nation of Islam, and its leader, Elijah Muhammad. When Malcolm left prison, he had become a devoted follower of the movement, had begun to form his own ideas about the issue of racism, and had changed his last name to “X,” out of the belief that “Little” was a slave name.
Malcolm worked his way into the Nation of Islam quickly, and he was soon appointed a minister and national spokesperson by Elijah Muhammad. Malcolm was given the task of increasing the membership of the NOI, and he did it well. His incredible charisma and conviction drew members like children to ice cream, and in 11 years, membership jumped from 500 people to more than 30,000. Malcolm’s fame grew along with the NOI’s membership, and he was soon faced with the awkward reality that he had overshadowed his mentor’s renown.
In 1963, it was discovered that Elijah Muhammad had been having affairs with six different women. This went against a fundamental principle of Islam, and the betrayal shook Malcolm to the core. Malcolm refused to cover the events up, and when he made a controversial comment after John F. Kennedy’s assassination and was silenced for 90 days, many believed that Malcolm’s comments were not the reason for his punishment. Malcolm left the Nation of Islam in 1964, refusing to represent an organization built on lies, and started Muslim Mosque, Inc.
In 1964, Malcolm made a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia that changed his life. He met people of all races that shared the same beliefs and treated each other as equals, and he took what he saw back to America. There he began to deliver a message directed towards all races: a message of hope and a better future. Malcolm renounced Elijah Muhammad, and as time passed, the relationship between the two continued to worsen. Several assassinations were attempted by the NOI, and Malcolm’s home was burned, although his family did manage to escape with their lives.
On February 21, 1965, an assassination attempt finally proved to be more than an attempt. Malcolm X was dragged onstage before an appearance at Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom, and shot fifteen times by three NOI members in front of the waiting audience. Malcolm X was declared dead at 39 years of age at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. More than 30,000 people attended his funeral, with 1,500 packing into the Faith Temple Church of God in Christ. Malcolm’s friends took the shovels from the hired gravediggers and dug his grave themselves. Malcolm’s wife Betty gave birth to his twin daughters later that year. They never knew their father.
Many say that if he had not been killed, Malcolm X would have lived to be one of the greatest civil rights leaders of all time. They say he would have become more than just a radical, but a voice of truth to lead America into the future. However, Malcolm was not just a radical. Yes, some of views were a little one-sided, and some of his ideas may have been sort of crazy. However, in the last year of his life, during a pilgrimage to a sacred place, Malcolm realized something: people could work together, violence was not the only answer, and there was hope for the future. Malcolm conveyed this message to America during the remainder of his life. A great leader of his time that pushed for change to better the lives of many, Malcolm X may not have always had the right methods, but his goals were always right on target.
"Biography of Malcolm X." Africa Within. Web. 29 Oct. 2009.
<http://www.africawithin.com/malcolmx/malcolm_bio.htm>. Malcolm X. Web. 29 Oct. 2009. <http://www.brothermalcolm.net>. MalcolmX.com. Web. 29 Oct. 2009. <http://www.malcolmx.com>.