Malcolm X

By: Tyler Schlecht
Littrell B4 American Studies

Malcolm's Life as a kid

Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska. Malcolm's father was an outspoken Baptist minister who supported the Black Nationalist leader. The Little family had to relocate twice before Malcolm even turned 4 because they were threatened with death threats from the Black Legion, a white supremacy group. In 1929, their house burned down, and in 1931, Malcolm's father was found dead at the town's trolley tracks. The police ruled out foul play and ruled them as accidents. Malcolm and his siblings were split up in separate homes throughout the area after his mom was put in a mental institution.

Growing up, Malcolm was smart and focused. He graduated Junior High at the top of his class. Yet, he dropped out after one of his teachers told him it was not realistic for a black person to be a lawyer. By 1942, Malcolm was coordinating various narcotics, prostitution and gambling rings. Malcolm was sentenced to 10 years in prison after getting caught up with a friend committing burglary.

Malcolm's Time in Prison

Malcolm was sentenced to 10 years at Charlestown prison in Massachusetts. Malcolm’s time in Massachusetts state prison was a period of intellectual growth and religious upheaval. He suffered from drug withdrawal and a fierce temper. Malcolm begins to think outside the mindset of his youth. He makes use of the small prison library, betters his English, and channels his rage into reasoned argument. In 1948, Malcolm moves to Norfolk Prison Colony, where there is less violence and inmates may study freely. At the huge library there, he digs himself into subject after subject, including history, religion, literature, biology, and linguistics. Malcolm literally copied the entire dictionary, starting with the word "aardvark". I don't know about you, but I am not that dedicated, especially to learning how to read and write. Before prison, Malcolm was illiterate. After prison, his vocabulary probably matched some of the top English professors in the country. Malcolm X once said, "My Alma mater was books, a good library... I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity."

Malcolm's Conversion to Islam

Malcolm X converted to Islam after he thought about how all white people in his life had harmed him. Elijah Muhammad convinced him to convert. He started to develop all these feelings about white people because they had always done him wrong. I don't think anyone can really blame him for hating white people, but he didn't actually help the issue of racism. He helped the issue for racism against blacks, but he just stirred it up for racism against whites.

Malcolm was released from prison after 7 years, in August of 1952. He tried to recruit people to his new place of worship. During this period, Malcolm replaces his last name with “X” to represent the unknown African name he would have had if his ancestors not been kidnapped and enslaved. He is surprised and flattered when Elijah Muhammad appoints him as the assistant minister at the Detroit temple. He starts going all over the place to convert people to Islam and to teach people about racism and how it should be stopped. He marries a woman named Betty and eventually has five children with her.

Civil Rights Movement

By 1960, the Nation of Islam starts issuing huge events and mass rallies with Elijah Muhammad as the main attraction. At first they don't let white people in, but they change and eventually let anyone in who is curious. Eventually the size of the rallies attracts the FBI and Police and they start wire tapping higher up people's phones, including Malcolm X. Muhammad starts to grow old, so Malcolm X starts to take over, and he does an excellent job. He starts to become too in depth in his work and soon begins to Muhammad jealous. Muhammad eventually pretty much "divorces" Malcolm, and he goes to stay with this fighter named Cassius Clay, because death threats were being made against him. Clay was preparing for a fight against Sonny Liston, who was physically stronger than him. Malcolm trained Clay through a combination of will, cleverness, and training. After the victory, Clay announces his affiliation to Islam and makes a new name for himself. He called himself "Muhammad Ali."

Malcolm's Death

Malcolm was preparing to address the Organization of Afro-American Unity in Manhattan's Audubon Ballroom, when someone screamed something in the middle of the room. Malcolm and his bodyguards tried to silence the crowd, when Thomas Hagan shot him in the chest with a sawed-off double barrel shotgun. He was beaten severely, when two other men shot Malcolm with semi-automatic pistols. Malcolm was pronounced dead at 3:30 at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital.