This month on the 19th May we celebrate Malcolm X Day – the day he was born and the day he is appreciated by people across the world, each and every passing year.
But what did he do? Why was he so influential? Born on the 19th May, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska, he was the fourth child of eight, to parents Louise and Earl Little. His father was a preacher and an active member of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, but due to his civil rights activism, the whole of his family was subjected to regular harassment from a number of white supremacist groups including the Ku Klux Klan.
Malcolm X had a particularly troubled childhood which lead on to his teens and played a part in how he presented himself as an adult. In fact, while still being carried by his mother, Malcolm was a victim of abuse from the Ku Klux Klan who tormented and terrorised his family by riding up to their home brandishing shotguns and threatening violence.
After years of abuse Earl Little moved his family out of Omaha, but the racism towards them continued to grow – even resulting in their family home being burned to the ground. Amidst the abuse, Earl Little was found dead after a suspected accidental hit and run – despite his family believing he was specifically targeted. After his passing, Malcolm’s mother Louise was admitted to a mental institute and the family was split up and sent to different foster homes.
As years passed Malcolm became involved in criminal acts and drug dealing to fund his new found life style, he delved deeper in to the criminal underground to afford luxury suits and expensive nights out which resulted in him carrying out a 10 year long prison sentence.
Whilst incarcerated he found refuge in Islam and embraced the ideology of Black Nationalism. The idea suggested that in order to secure freedom, justice and equality, black Americans needed to establish their own state entirely separate from white Americans. Malcolm converted to the Nation of Islam before his release from prison in 1952.
However, years later Malcolm became part of a dispute with his hero and mentor Elijah Muhammad in 1963. After learning that Elijah had violated a number of his teachings by having extramarital affairs and fathering several children, Malcolm made the decision to leave the Nation of Islam in 1964.
The next few years of his life took a turn for the better. After an extended trip through North Africa and the Middle East, Malcolm found spiritual self-realisation and began to reflect upon his past wrong doings and mistakes. Upon returning to the states ready to share his new found insight, he was assassinated on the 21st February 1965 before he could deliver his speech.
In the aftermath of his death, Malcolm’s spiritual transformation was ignored by many who continued to paint him as a trouble maker, but following the publication of his autobiography – he will be remembered as the man who fought and demonstrated the great lengths a human is willing to go to secure their own freedom.
Famously quoted saying “Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a man, you take it.” Malcolm X will be remembered by the thousands who continue to stand up for what he believed in.
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