"Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery."(Moncur 1) This is a quote said by Malcolm X, and this is typical of how he approached everything. Malcolm X was a civil rights activist in the 1950s and 60s who fought against racism. Malcolm first thought that whites caused all the suffering for the blacks, so they should just stay separate, but it wasn't until later in his career that his views changes and realized violence wouldn't solve his problems. Malcolm X is remembered today for preaching his beliefs, encouraging the end of racism, and being a great influence on the civil rights movement.
Malcolm Little was born May 19, 1925 to Earl and Louise Little. Preaching the end of racism was in Malcolm's blood; his father was a Baptist minister who encouraged blacks to fight for their equality. When Malcolm was young, his family received threats and even had one of their houses burnt down, but nothing was done by the white firemen, and the house burned completely. When Malcolm was young, he was known to be a well behaved child and student, but then a few incidents happened that unleashed a different Malcolm. One day he told a teacher he wanted to be a lawyer, but the teacher told him that being a lawyer was not a job for niggers. It was then that his hopes for the future left him. Another horrible moment in his childhood was when he was six and his father was killed by a white man's car (Crushshon 12).
When Malcolm's father died, the whole family became a mess. Malcolm's mother was left with eight children, and it soon led her to a mental breakdown, so she was sent away to an institution and eight children were left with no one. The kids were split into different foster homes and orphanages (Haberman 1). Malcolm dropped out of school and worked his way to Harlem, New York, where he started with petty crimes and soon started coordinating narcotics, prostitution, and gambling rings. Malcolm was a troubled teen, but it wasn't until he was arrested for robbery when he was 21 and sentenced to ten years in prison that his life began to change (Encyclopedia 1).
While in prison, Malcolm remembered his old dreams in school. He decided to get an education, and reading became his favorite past time (Myers 11). Also, during the time he served he converted to the Black Muslim faith- The Nation of Islam. Malcolm became very interested in and studied the teachings of Elijah Muhammad, the leader. Muhammad taught that white society actively worked to keep blacks from empowering themselves and achieving political, economic and social success. Among other goals, the Nation of Islam fought for a state of their own, separate from one lived in by whites (Haberman 1). It was when Malcolm was paroled in 1952 that he changed his last name to "X" because he considered "Little" to be a slave name and started preaching of his new found beliefs (Haberman 1).