Malcolm Little ‘Malcolm X’ was born on the 19th of May 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska to parents Louise Norton Little and Earl, a Baptist Minister and avid supporter of Black Nationalist leader Marcus Garvey. To his admirers he was a courageous advocate for the rights of blacks, a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its crimes against black Americans; detractors accused him of preaching racism and violence.
In 1946, at age 20, he went to prison for larceny and breaking and entering. While in prison he became a member of the Nation of Islam, and after his parole in 1952 quickly rose to become one of its leaders.
For a dozen years he was the public face of the controversial group; in keeping with the Nation’s teachings he espoused black supremacy, advocated the separation of black and white Americans and scoffed at the civil rights movement’s emphasis on integration.
Malcolm little excelled in junior high school but dropped out after a white teacher told him that practicing law, his aspiration at the time, was “no realistic goal for a nigger”.Later Malcolm X recalled feeling that the white world offered no place for a career-oriented black man, regardless of talent.
In late 1945, little returned to Boston, where he and four accomplices committed a series of burglaries targeting wealthy white families. He was sent to prison and during his seven years in reformatory (1946-52), Malcolm underwent a significant change.
He was greatly influenced by a prisoner called Bimbi, a self-educated man who convinced Malcolm of the value of education. In the intervening years since leaving the eighth grade, Malcolm had forgotten how to read and write, but with Bimbi’s guidance and encouragement, he began to read and study, even took courses in English and Latin.
In 1952, Malcolm was paroled and went to Detroit to live with his brother Wilfred, also a member of the Black Muslims. Malcolm took a job in an automobile factory and began finding out all he could about the Nation of Islam and in 1954, he was sent to Philadelphia; as a reward for his speed and diligence in organizing the temple there, he was appointed minister of Temple Seven in Harlem.
During the years 1953 and 1963, the Nation of Islam grew from a small number of storefront temples to a large, organized, vocal national movement dedicated to black separatism, and Malcolm became its best-known and most volatile spokesman.
During his meteoric rise he became Minister of New York Temple No. 7 in June 1954, where he met Betty Sanders in January 1956, whom he married on 14th January 1958.
High profile Nation of Islam converts directly attributable to Malcolm included the professional boxing legend, Cassius Clay, who became Muhammad Ali and, by 1963, Malcolm was second only to Elijah Muhammad in influence within the organisation.
On the 14th of February 1965, Malcolm’s East Elmhurst home, still the subject of a bitter legal ownership battle with the Nation of Islam, was firebombed. Malcolm and his family were fortunate to escape physical injury, and no one was ever prosecuted in relation to the attack.
He travelled to Selma, Alabama and returned to New York for a speaking engagement at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem on February 21, 1965. This was Malcolm X’s last speech. Once Malcolm was up at the podium, a smoke bomb exploded.
While that was being put out, Talmadge Hayer and two other NOI members stood up and shot Malcolm X. He was hit by fifteen bullets, killing Malcolm X. He was dead before he reached the hospital.
In the month prior to his death, Malcolm X had been dictating his biography to noted African-American author, Alex Haley. The Autobiography of MalcolmX was published in 1965, just months after Malcolm X’s murder.