Greatly admired by many all around the world, as a brave advocate and activist for the African American’s rights, Malcolm X has remained an enigma in the modern day history with much speculation about his life. His name echoes through the history as one of the few men who stood firm in what they believed (MalcomX.com, 2011).
Circumstances surrounding Malcolm X childhood and the experiences he had, played a huge role in his adult life. Born in 1925, on the 19th day of May to Louise Norton and Earl little, he was named Malcolm Little and was the fourth child out of seven other siblings (Malcom X, 2007). The father supported Marcus Garvey and the pan African activities. As an out spoken local leader and promoter of the “Universal Negro Improvement Association” and a “lay speaker in the Baptist movement”, Earl inadvertently inculcated these values into the mind of his children and particularly Malcolm Little (Gormley, 2008). Their family had to relocate to Milwauke , Wisconsin in 1926 then to Lansing in Michigan after threats from the Ku Klux Clan because of Earl’s involvement in the UNIA (Benson, 2005).
Some members of their extended family had been violently killed by this group, fomenting hatred towards “the white race” (Gormley, 2008). The incidents in young malcom’s childhoods exposed him to the sentiments revolving around the black struggle. After his father’s death and the mother’s nervous break down that kept her in a mental hospital, he was forced to live in a series of foster homes. Malcom performed amazingly well in his junior high school and was among the best of the students. His aspirations to be a lawyer were shattered by a negative comment from one his “white” classmates, referring to his goal as “unrealistic to a black man” as describe in his autobiography (Malcom X, 2007).
His older sister took him in 1941, and his first experiences in Roxbury brought him to an African American dominated society at the age of sixteen years. As described by Benson (2005), living in among “his own brothers and sisters” and their culture, exposed him to contemporary black American issues, reminding him of his father’s struggle (Gormley, 2008). Malcom drifted from town to town, and from job to job, between 1943 and 1946 (Malcomx.com, 2011). The life of crime lived by many of his friends, slowly took hold of the young man, leading to series of crimes that finally got him in jail in 1946. He was sentenced to 8 to 10 years for breaking and entering and larceny, with the term served at the “Charlestown State Prison in Boston” (Malcom X, 2007).
In prison he met John Elton, who encouraged him to teach himself. Malcolm says in the autobiography describing John as “the first man he had seen, commanding absolute respect” from his peers with his oratory skills with words. His avid studying in prison allowed him to gather a lot of knowledge and language skills. After parole Malcolm joined the Nation of Islam, a pan African organization preaching self reliance of the black community with little religious affiliation to Islam. With his natural abilities in interpersonal relationship and public speaking, the now 28 years old Malcolm joined the leadership of the group in Detroit, as an assistant minister in 1953 (Malcom X, 2007). His public speeches left many alarmed, both blacks and white, with many describing the nation of Islam as black segregationists and a dangerous threat to progress made in improving relationships between the races. His oratory skills nevertheless earned hi much respect from many, not just within the country, but also from other nations around the world.
A break down in personal relationship with other leaders within the organization in the 1960s, particularly Elijah Muhammad, eventually led to his stepping down and leaving the group in 1964 (Gormley, 2008). Members of the Nation of Islam were involved in his assassination on February 21 in 1965.