Short Biography of Malcolm X
Before his rise to one of the most prominent members of the Nation of Islam followed by a recantation to Orthodox Islam, the early life of Malcolm X was filled with acts of hate by white supremacy groups against him and his family. From his early experiences, he came to call white people ‘devils’ because of their racist actions. However, later in his life, he would claim that he had friends of all colors, all beliefs, and all professions.
The stark change of Malcolm’s beliefs came mainly from his visiting Mecca to complete a pilgrimage. He said that it had opened his eyes, as he saw all colors following the teachings of the Koran – that it wasn’t violent, but accepting. This was something the Nation of Islam hadn’t followed.
Malcolm’s father was a lay preacher for a Baptist church and worked with the United Negro Improvement Association. He died a violent death by a group of white supremacists, but the case was covered up to look like a suicide. Malcolm’s mother was of part-white descent, which is how he claims he had fairer skin than his brethren. Forced to move from Nevada, to Milwaukee, and then to Lansing, Michigan in the U.S., Malcolm had an unstable childhood that always saw him being forced to move from one town to another. Upon his father’s death, Malcolm’s mother had a nervous breakdown and was in a mental institution for over 25 years.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X, co-authored with Alex Harvey, says Malcolm X dropped out of school because of resentment that he was highly intelligent and teachers were shooting down his high aspirations. As he grew up and was finally taken out of the foster child system from which he had been made a ward of the state and moved to Harlem, he began making money on the street. When caught involved in a string of robberies, Malcolm was sentenced to ten years in prison, where he learned about the teachings of the Nation of Islam.
After his time in prison, Malcolm had read and educated himself in many ways. He had also learned more about his newfound religion. After only a few years of involvement, Malcolm’s popularity grew as he was gifted at giving razor-sharp speeches that condemned white people and claimed black people should reclaim their prominent standing over all whites – whites were a mistake in the creation theory. Upon joining the Nation of Islam, Malcolm changed his last name to ‘X’ as a symbolic gesture that he would reject his slave name. He also argued that because ‘X’ was a brand often burnt on the upper arms of slaves, that his brethren should not forget what white slave masters did to their ancestors.
Once the FBI became more involved in the goings-on of the extremist religious organization, they kept a very close eye on Malcolm X. As Malcolm gave speeches all across the nation, he learned more about Elijah Mohammed’s immoral personal behavior as a leader of his religion. Malcolm X went to Mecca, where he disavowed the teachings of the Nation of Islam and became a man of peace. In doing so, he had crossed his previous religious organization. And, in February of 1965, they had him assassinated. For turning over a new nonviolent, anti-racist leaf in society, many organizations, universities, and centers have taken up the peaceful cause of Malcolm X.