Malcolm X Malcolm X, b. May 19, 1925, d. Feb. 21, 1965, was an influential American advocate of BLACK NATIONALISM, and–as a pioneer in articulating a vigorous self-defense against white violence–a precursor of the black power movement of the late 1960s. Born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Neb., he became a rebellious youth after the death (1931) of his father, who the family believed was murdered for advocating the ideas of Marcus GARVEY.
Malcolm spent a few years in a foster home but became an excellent student and was voted class president. Nevertheless, at the age of 16, he moved east with relatives and drifted to New York City, where he became involved in Harlem’s underworld of drugs, prostitution, and confidence games. In prison for burglary from 1946 to 1952, he read widely and was converted to the teachings of Elijah MUHAMMAD. On his release, he embraced the BLACK MUSLIM movement and changed his name to Malcolm X. Following his initial training, Malcolm became the leading spokesman for the Black Muslims to the outside world.
An ideological split developed between Malcolm and the more conservative Elijah Muhammad, and in 1963 Malcolm was suspended as a minister of the Black Muslims. After a pilgrimage to Mecca, he announced (1964) that he had become an orthodox Muslim and founded the rival Organization for Afro-American Unity. His travel in the Middle East and Africa gave him a more optimistic view regarding potential brotherhood between black and white Americans; he no longer preached racial separation, but rather a socialist revolution. His career ended abruptly when he was shot and killed in New York City on Feb. 21, 1965, by assassins thought to be connected with the Black Muslims. The AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MALCOLM X (dictated to Alex Haley, 1965) publicized Malcolm’s ideas and became something of a classic in contemporary American literature. Bibliography Breitman, George.
The Last Year of Malcolm X (1967). Clarke, John H. ed., Malcolm X (1969). Goldman, Peter. The Death and Life of Malcolm X (1973). Malcolm X, Malcolm X: The Last Speeches, ed.
by Bruce Perry (1989). Wolfenstein, E. V., The Victims of Democracy (1981).