Malcolm X was a well-known minister and a leader for the civil rights movement. He has made many great influential strides throughout his life, becoming one of the most recognizable figures in the civil rights era, although he is also considered to be quite controversial. He was originally named Malcolm Little, and was born on May 19th, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska. He had six brothers and sisters. His father was a member and leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and promoted ideals like black pride, self-reliance, and getting along with others. Malcolm X’s father was a large influence on his young life and helped to encourage him to become a fighter, later on, for black rights.
As a young man, Malcolm X got into some trouble with the law when he tried to steal a watch from a jewelry store. He had a gun on him when he was arrested, so he did some prison time for his crime. While in prison in Boston, he began to read in his spare time. He became fascinated with the nation and religion of Islam. There were cell mates and prison mates who talked to Malcolm about the Islamic religion, and he was truly interested in it. In 1952, Malcolm was released from prison and soon became a minister. He spread the word about the Islamic religion, and changed his last name to X, because he said it better represented his black heritage, and removed the name “Little,” which he thought was a slave owner’s name. He began to spread a negative message against white people, and even shocked some members of the black community with the things that he said.
Leaders like Thurgood Marshall and Martin Luther King, Jr. were both promoting harmony among the races and asking people to get along with one another during this time. They promoted harmony, understanding, and most importantly, peace between all races, colors, and backgrounds. Malcolm X spoke of segregation of the races, meaning that blacks and whites should stay apart from one another and not work together in harmony. He also demonized the white people and culture, creating more harm than good in the long run. While he wanted African Americans to experience equality, he often created a bigger divide, because of his harsh statements. Soon, the Nation of Islam turned against Malcolm X and even made threats against his life. The assassination threats kept coming, and Malcolm X started to fear for his life and the life of his family.
On February 21st, 1965, Malcolm X was scheduled to speak in Manhattan, New York. There were about 400 people there, and suddenly there was a commotion. Most of the people in the audience did not know exactly what was happening. Malcolm X and some others attempted to help break it up, and Malcolm X was shot at close range with a sawed-off shotgun. Then, a few other men in the audience began to fire shots at him as well. At the end of the incident, he was shot 21 times and was pronounced dead at 3:30 PM that day. The guilty assassins were members of the Nation of Islam. While his views were controversial, Malcolm X still left his mark on society and the black community.
For more information about Malcolm X and the civil rights movement, please check out the following websites:
Malcolm X –This website has a good biography about the life and work of Malcolm X.