On February 21, 1965, marked the death of a man. To his admirers, he was a courageous advocate for the rights of African Americans, a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its crimes against black Americans. His detractors accused him of preaching racism, black supremacy, antisemitism, and violence. He was an advocate of cultural and social reconstruction until a balance of equality was shared by any means necessary. This is the story of a man who lived and died for what he believed in. This is the story of Malcolm X.
Malcolm X (May 19, 1925-February 21, 1965), born Malcolm Little and also known by all as Al-Hajj Malik Al-Shabazz was an African-American-Muslim, minister, public speaker, and human rights activist. He was born in Omaha, Nebraska and was the fourth of seven children to Earl Little and Louise Norton. His father, a Baptist minister, was an outspoken follower of Marcus Garvey, the Black nationalist leader in the 1920 who advocated a "back-to-Africa" movement for African Americans.
In his autobiography written by Alex Haley, he told a story that during his childhood that his father would always take him to meeting places all around the Lansing area. His father would bring around with him an envelope containing pictures of Marcus Garvey that he idolized. The meeting would always ended with his father saying, several times, and the people chanting after him, "Up, you mighty race, you can accomplish what you will!". This experiences played a significant role in shaping Malcolm X’s adulthood and what strive him to fight for what he believed in.
By the time he was six, his father had died due to an attack collaborated by the society that feared his father’s philosophy. It was during this time that his family conditions started to go downhill. His mother began to be very concerned about collecting the two insurance policies that his father had always been proud carrying. His father had always said that families should be protected in case of death. One of the insurance policies apparently paid off without any problem but it was a small amount of money.
While the other company that had issued the bigger insurance policy was balking at paying off. They were claiming that his father had committed suicide. The situation further escalated with the frequent visits from the state Welfare. They would asked a thousand questions as though they regard he and his siblings as a mere things. For a time his mother and her eight children lived on public welfare. When his mother became mentally ill, Malcolm was sent to a foster home. His mother remained in a mental institution for about 26 years. The children were divided among several families, and Malcolm lived in various state institutions and boarding-houses. He dropped out of school at the age of 15.
After he dropped out of school, he then went on living with his sister in Boston. During his time in Boston, Malcolm worked as a shoeshine boy, soda jerk, busboy, waiter, and railroad dining car waiter. At this point he began a criminal life that included gambling, selling drugs, burglary, and hustling until one fateful day in 1946, Malcolm X was sentenced to eight to ten years in prison on charges of robbery. It was at this time in prison where he met a great person by the name of Bimbi.
Bimbi was an inmate in Charlestown. He was an inmate that Malcolm regarded as “a man that could command total respect with word”. It was on Bimbi’s advice that Malcolm started to educate himself to become a better man, an educated man. Malcolm did a corresponded courses in English and Latin while he was there.
As fated one day his brother Philbert, who was forever joining something, wrote to him a letter indicating that he had discovered the "natural religion for the black man." Philbert now said that he belonged to something called "the Nation of Islam." On the other hand another letter came to Malcolm from Reginald advising him not to eat pork and smoke cigarettes with the thought in mind that if he had done all that was told that he would be able to get out of prison. Malcolm was delighted when he heard about this news and eventually followed all Reginald’s advice.
During this time, his sister Ella was working on transferring Malcolm to another prison facility in which she succeeded in doing so. In 1948, Malcolm was transferred to another prison facility in Norfolk, Massachusetts. Upon this time Reginald keep on writing to Malcolm telling him about the new religion that he was into. After long months of discussion, Malcolm converted to Islam and upon his release from prison he took upon himself to go and met with the leader of Nation of Islam, Elijah Muhammad in Chicago, Illinois.
After meeting with Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm was soon appointed as the assistant minister of Nation of Islam’s Temple Number One in Detroit. Soon, he became a full-time minister. By late 1953, Malcolm X established Boston's Temple Number 11. In March 1954, he expanded Temple Number 12 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Two months later Malcolm X was selected to lead Temple Number Seven in Harlem, and he rapidly expanded its membership. Malcolm was a natural born leader and it was all because of his father’s influence during his childhood.
In 1955, Malcolm X met Betty Sanders. She had been invited to listen to his lecture, and she was very impressed by him. They met again at a dinner party. Soon Sanders was attending all of Malcolm’s lectures at Temple Number Seven. In 1956, she joined the Nation of Islam. Malcolm X frequently took groups to visit New York's museums and libraries, and he always invited Betty. Although they had never discussed the subject, Betty suspected that Malcolm was interested in marriage. On January 12, 1958, he called her from Detroit and asked her for hand in marriage, and they were married two days later in Lansing, Michigan.
The couple had six daughters. Their names were Attallah, born in 1958 and named after Attila the Hun, Qubilah, born in 1960 and named after Kublai Khan, Ilyasah, born in 1962 and named after Elijah Muhammad, Gamilah Lumumba, born in 1964 and named after Patrice Lumumba, and twins, Malikah and Malaak, born in 1965 after their father's assassination and named for him.
Malcolm X first came to be known to the whole world after the police beating of a Nation of Islam member named Johnson Hinton. On April 26, 1957, two police officers were beating an African-American man with their nightsticks when three pedestrians who belonged to the Nation of Islam tried to intervene. One of the officers began to beat one of the pedestrian, Johnson Hinton. The damaged from the beatings were so severe that the surgeon concluded that the victim had brain concussion. All four men were eventually arrested and taken to the police station.
A witness who saw the whole incident went to the Nation of Islam. Within a few hours, Malcolm X and a small group of Muslims went to the police station and demanded to see Hinton. The police captain initially said no Muslims were being held there, but as the crowd grew to about 500 outside the police station, he allowed Malcolm to speak with Hinton. After a short conversation, Malcolm demanded to the police that Hinton is to be taken to the hospital so that a thorough examination could be done. The police agreed to Malcolm’s demand and later that day Hinton was taken to Harlem Hospital in an ambulance.
Hinton was treated and released into the custody of the police, who then returned him to the police station. During this time, words came out and about 4,000 people had gathered outside the police station. The police realized the potential of a riot and called for backup. Upon hearing about this situation, Malcolm went back into the police station with an attorney and made bail arrangements for the other two Muslims excluding Hinton.
Malcolm realized that the negotiation were at a stalemate. He then stepped outside the police station with an effort of dispersing the crowd outside. Malcolm gave a hand signal to indicate that everything is under control and as soon as he had done that the Nation of Islam members quietly went away and the remaining crowds soon followed.
The following month, the Bureau of Special Services and Investigation of the New York Police Department (NYPD) began its surveillance of Malcolm. The NYPD's Chief Inspector had asked for information about Malcolm concerning where he lived, and what prisons he had served. In October, when a grand jury declined to indict the officers who had beaten Hinton, Malcolm wrote an angry telegram to the police commissioner to revoke the decision that had been made.
Malcolm then again came to the attention of the general public when on December 1, 1963 he commented on the assassination of President Kennedy, Malcolm X said that it was a case of "chickens coming home to roost". He added that "chickens coming home to roost never did make me sad; they've always made me glad. The remark bring upon a widespread public outcry. Due to his fact, The Nation of Islam issued a message of condolence to the Kennedy family and ordered its ministers not to comment on the assassination. They refrain Malcolm from public speaking for 90 days because of his comment.
On March 8, 1964, Malcolm X publicly announced his separation from the Nation of Islam. He affirm that he was still a Muslim, but he felt the Nation of Islam had "gone as far as it can" because of its rigid religious teachings. Malcolm said he was planning to form a black nationalist organization that would try to "heighten the political consciousness" of African Americans. He also expressed his lifelong desire to work with other civil right leader and that the main obstacle that had been preventing him from doing so in the past was none other than Elijah Muhammad himself.
One other reason for the separation of Malcolm from Nation of Islam was because of the growing tension between Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad because Malcolm X had caught wind of rumors regarding Muhammad's extramarital affairs with his young secretaries. Such actions were against the teachings of the Nation and Islam. Although at first Malcolm X ignored the rumors, he then spoke with Muhammad's son Wallace and the women that are making the accusations. He soon was convinced that the rumors were true. Muhammad had tried to justify his actions by referring to precedents by Biblical prophets but it
Another reason that led to the separation of Malcolm X from the Nation of Islam was because of the overgrowing tension between him and the other members of Nation of Islam. The Nation of Islam’s members had been convinced that Malcolm X had been building his personal base of influence in order to succeed Elijah Muhammad and that Malcolm X had been trying to make the organization political.
After leaving the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X founded Muslim Mosque, Inc., a religious organization, and the Organization of Afro-American Unity, a group that advocated Pan-Africanism. On March 26, 1964, he met Martin Luther King, Jr. in a meeting that was held after the Senate’s debate on the Civil Rights bill. This was the only time the two men ever met face to face. In April, Malcolm X made a speech titled "The Ballot or the Bullet" in which he urged the African Americans to exercise their right to vote wisely. Several Sunni Muslims encouraged Malcolm X to learn about Islam. Soon he converted to Sunni Islam, and decided to make his pilgrimage to Mecca.
During the next months Malcolm X made several trips to Africa and Europe and one to Mecca. Based on these trips, he began to write that he no longer believed that all white people were evil and that he had found the true meaning of the Islamic religion. “True Islam doesn’t have room for racism,” he said. He then changed his name to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. He announced in most of his speech that he planned to internationalize the black struggle by taking black people's complaints against the United States before the United Nations. For this purpose he sought aid from several African countries through the Organization of Afro-American Unity.
At the same time he stated that his organizations were willing to work with other black organizations and with progressive white groups in the United States on voter registration, on black control of community public institutions such as schools and the police, and on other civil and political rights for black people. He began holding meetings in Harlem at which he enunciated the policies and programs of his new organizations.
On February 21, 1965, in Manhattan's Audubon Ballroom, Malcolm X began to speak in a meeting of the Organization of Afro-American Unity when a disturbance broke out in the crowd of 400. A man had yelled, "Nigger! Get your hand outta my pocket!" As Malcolm X and his bodyguards moved to quiet the disturbance, a man from the crowd rushed forward and shot him in the chest with a sawed-off shotgun. Two other men which had been waiting in the crowds then charged the stage and fired handguns while hitting him 16 times. Witness to the assault had caught and beat one of the assassins as the others fled the ballroom. Later that day, Malcolm X was pronounced dead at 3:30 pm, shortly after he arrived at the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital.
Talmadge Hayer, a Nation of Islam member also known as Thomas Hagan, was arrested on the scene after being caught by the crowds. Eyewitnesses identified two more suspects, Norman Butler and Thomas Johnson, also members of the Nation. The two other members were detained by the police later on that day. All three were charged for killing. At first Hayer denied his involvement in the assault, but during the trial he confessed to having fired shots at Malcolm X. He testified that Butler and Johnson were not present and were not involved in the assassination, but he declined to name the men who had joined him in the shooting. All three men were convicted and sent to prison to serve time.
Malcolm X, whose memory they can patronize now that he has been silenced, was the herald and authentic spokesman of its future. He looked forward to an alliance of black men and women with white revolutionaries in anti-capitalist struggles to bring equality and justice to all of our countrymen. Although he had not lived to see it realized, it was because of his conviction to his beliefs that the black peoples now are able to live in a society of equality and dignity. We will always remember his most valuable lesson of all that “the future belongs to those who prepare for it today”.