Malcolm X: Deviant or Hero?
Malcolm X was born May 19, 1925, and he was assassinated on February 21, 1965. Malcolm X was a Muslim leader and Civil Rights leader. He was born Malcolm Little to Earl Little and Louise Norton, who were both activists in the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Malcolm X was a bright student but was very bitter towards white authority figures. X quit school after a teacher said that his desire to become a lawyer was not a “realistic goal for a nigger.”
In 1941, he went to live with his half sister, Ella Collins, in Boston, Massachusetts. While in Boston he worked a variety of railroad jobs but he also became increasingly involved in selling drugs and running numbers. Malcolm X was arrested in 1946 for larceny as well as breaking and entering; he was sent to prison in February 1946. While incarcerated, Malcolm X became a follower of Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Temple of Islam. After X’s parole in 1952, he became Minister Malcolm X, using X in place of the African name that was taken from his slave ancestors.
Malcolm X’s forceful declamations attracted a lot of publicity as well as a large personal following. In his speeches he implored black people to separate from the whites and gain their freedom “by any means necessary.” This became his “motto.” Through many public political and religious protests Malcolm X became notorious with the white community. He became the most well known figure in the Islam Nation.
Malcolm X was particularly firm in his opinions of the nonviolent strategies advocated by Martin Luther King, Jr. During a November 1963 address, Malcolm ridiculed the theory that African Americans could achieve their freedom nonviolently. "The only revolution in which the goal is loving your enemy is the Negro revolution," he announced. "Revolution is bloody, revolution is hostile, revolution knows no compromise, revolution overturns and destroys everything that gets in its way. And as they took it over, it lost its militancy. It ceased to be angry, it ceased to be hot, it ceased to be uncompromising," referring to Dr. King and other political leaders. Malcolm X was big on action, more than words.
In 1964, Malcolm X broke with the Nation of Islam and formed his own group, Muslim Mosque, Inc. He also started practicing orthodox Islam because of his trip to Mecca and seeing all colors of Muslims worshipping together, and realizing that all whites were not devils. Upon returning too the United States, X announced that he adopted a Muslim name, el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, and that he was in the process of forming a new political group, the Organization of Afro-American Unity, in order to bring together all levels of the African-American freedom struggle.
In February 1965, Malcolm X traveled to Alabama to address young activists involved in a voting rights campaign. He attempted to meet with Dr. King but he was incarcerated; instead he met with Coretta Scott King, and explained to her, "If...