Malcolm X



The Black Lives Matter Movement is often connected to the work of Malcolm X. Although he was killed decades before this movement began, his ideology encouraging blacks to defend themselves against white oppression in some ways resemble the BLM mission. He left a significant legacy in the African- American community, calling for empowerment and civil rights.

Jenna Bao, Associate Editor

Malcom X, born as Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925, was a critical leader to the black community. His father was an avid supporter of Marcus Garvey and Black Nationalism, and the family was targeted by white supremacist groups throughout his childhood, culminating in his father’s murder.
Malcom X himself got involved in civil rights when, during Malcolm X’s time in prison for burglary, he converted to Islam and joined the Nation of Islam (NOI). (It is at this point that Malcolm X changed his name, considering “Little” to be a slave name and using “X” to represent the original name he lost.
The NOI, lead by Elijah Muhammad, taught that African- Americans were deliberately kept down by white society, preventing them from achieving social and economic success. It advocated for racial separation and the establishment of a state of their own.
Upon Malcolm X’s release in 1952, he quickly became a spokesperson for the NOI and a prominent figure in the media, which he used to spread his message. Charged with the task of growing the organization, his powerful and effective oration took membership from 500 to 30,000 in a decade.
His message did contrast that of other prominent black leader Martin Luther King Jr. in that Malcolm X called for “self-defense” and “any means necessary.” He was initially deeply skeptical of white America. All this led to a degree of fear, the attention of the American government, and multiple threats against his life.
However, as his public profile increased, his view separated from that of the NOI, and growing discontent led to Malcolm X’s split with the organization in 1964.
At that point, he developed his own group, Muslim Mosque, Inc. and took a pilgrimage to Mecca. The trip contributed to a shift in his philosophy regarding white people shifted to become more moderate. This view quickly gained traction, playing an important role in the civil rights movement with the group he started, the Organization of Afro-American Unity.
Not long after, though, Malcolm X was murdered on Feb. 21, 1965 while giving a speech at Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom. Long after his death, his philosophies regarding American race relations and black empowerment still persist.

You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” – Malcolm X