Black History Month: Malcom X

Black History Month: Malcom X

Armoni McNeill

February marks Black History Month. For the rest of this month of praise, my articles will be about an African American person who marked history. This article will be about someone everyone should know about: Malcolm X. 

It’s been 95 years since Malcolm X in 1925. He was a political activist and is most well known for his work as a leader during the Civil Rights Movement in America. But who was he? And why is he such an important figure to so many people?

Born on May 19, 1925 in Nebraska as Malcolm Stuart Little, he was the fourth of eight children. Malcolm X had a difficult childhood and felt like he had no real opportunities. When he was younger, Malcolm and his family suffered racist abuse the Ku Klux Klan – they had to move around often to avoid this racist, violent group and to avoid getting hurt. When he was six years old, his father was killed in what many believe was a deliberate racist attack. These childhood experiences inspired him to join the Civil Rights Movement.

Malcolm wanted to fight for the rights of black people because of the racist abuse he and his family had suffered. He spoke passionately at rallies and events and many people listened to his messages. Unlike Martin Luther King Jr, who encouraged non-violent protests, Malcolm X said that black people should protect themselves “by any means necessary.” He also disagreed with Martin Luther King Jr’s ambition of an America where black and white people lived together – Malcolm didn’t believe in that vision and wanted a separate nation just for black people.

Since his father was killed when he was young and Malcolm’s family didn’t have a lot of money, he turned to crime. He was sent to prison for being caught with stolen goods. When he was in prison, his brother sent him a letter about a political and religious group he’d joined called the Nation of Islam. Malcolm decided to join too and changed his name to Malcolm X to mark this change. 

The Nation of Islam was led by a man named Elijah Muhammad. Members of the Nation of Islam believed that black people were superior to white people. They also thought that Islam was the true religion of black people. Many people found this controversial – some people said it was going against the idea of equality – which they said meant it was going against the Civil Rights Movement too. Eventually, Malcolm left the Nation of Islam after falling out with some of the members, but he remained a Muslim. He made a pilgrimage to Mecca, Islam’s holiest city, and when he came back he began to work with other civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. on ways to peacefully achieve equal rights. 

Malcolm had made enemies within the Nation of Islam, and on February 14, 1965, his house was attacked and burned down. A few days later, as he began a speech in New York City, he was shot and killed.

The end of segregation is considered one of the biggest achievements of the Civil Rights Movement – of which Malcolm X was a key player. Many books and films have been written about him since, including an Oscar-nominated 1992 film by director Spike Lee in which Malcolm X is played by Hollywood actor, Denzel Washington.