Essay Preview: Malcolm X
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In the course of human history there will always be change. In order to bring about that change there must be something that is so controversial that it can break people away from the normal routine they have been accustomed to. Few people can raise the amount of attention needed to fuel that controversy. Malcolm X was one of those few that would die trying to achieve that attention. Earl Little was a black Baptist minister and an avid civil rights activist. On May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska Earl and his wife Louise gave birth to Malcolm Little. Malcolm was a victim of prejudice from day one. Before the time Malcolm was four his family had to relocate twice to avoid death threats from the Black Legion (White Supremacists) regarding Earls civil rights activism. Malcolms familys attempts to avoid impending violence were unsuccessful. In 1929 their Lansing, Michigan home was burned to the ground, the police ruled the fire an accident. The family was able to battle through until 1931 when Earls body was found lying across the towns trolley tracks. The police also ruled this an accident, the Littles, however, strongly believed both instances were no accident. Shortly after Louise suffered an emotional breakdown and was hospitalized, the children were split up amongst various foster home and orphanages. Malcolm proved to be a strong child and graduated at the top of his class in middle school. Strangely, Malcolms future was forever altered when his favorite teacher told him that his dream of becoming a lawyer was “no realistic goal for a nigger.” Dismayed, Malcolm dropped out of school and spent time in Boston working various jobs. He traveled to Harlem and began a criminal life where he organized narcotics, prostitution, and gambling rings.
He moved back to Boston and was eventually arrested for burglary in which he earned seven years in prison. Malcolm used his time in prison to further his education. It was during this time that his brother Reginald came to visit and told Malcolm about his recent conversion to the Muslim religion. Intrigued, Malcolm began to study the teachings of the Nation of Islam (NOI) leader Elijah Muhammad. By the time Malcolm was paroled he was a devoted follower of the NOI, changing his name to Malcolm X. He decided that Little was a slave name and denoted “X” to signify his lost tribal name. The NOI taught Muslim beliefs along with the idea that white society actively worked to keep African- Americans from empowering themselves and achieving political, economic and social success. Among their many goals they wanted to achieve a state of their own, separate from one inhabited by white people. Articulate and Intelligent, Malcolm was appointed minister and national spokesman for the Nation of Islam along with the task of establishing new mosques in cities such as Detroit, MI and Harlem, NY. Malcolms great side showed through when he utilized newspapers, radio, and television in order to bring attention to the NOI and deliver the message to the public. Malcolms charisma and conviction were all he needed to largely increase the size of the NOI. Between the years 1952 and 1963 membership rose from 500 to 30,000. Crowds and controversy made Malcolm a media magnet. In 1959 Malcolm was featured in a week long televised series entitled “The Hate That Hate Produced.” The series explored the fundamentals of the Nation of Islam and Malcolms rise and emergence as one of its great leaders. After the series, Malcolm soon realized that his fame had eclipsed that of his mentor Elijah Muhammad. Racial tension quickly rose in the 1960s.
The rise of the NOI caused infiltration from the FBI which included secretly placed bugs, wiretaps, cameras and other surveillance equipment to monitor the groups activities. At the peak of the civil rights movement Malcolms faith in the NOI was crushed when he discovered Elijah Muhammad (whom he considered a living prophet) was secretly having relations with as many as six women within the NOI. As if that were not enough, he soon learned that many of these relations had resulted in children. Since joining the NOI, Malcolm had strictly adhered to the teachings of Muhammad – which included remaining celibate until his marriage to Betty Shabazz in 1958. Malcolm ignored requests from his mentor to help cover up the affairs and subsequent children. He was deeply hurt by the lies and deception of Muhammad and turned his back on the NOI in response. Malcolm was now dealing with the frightening fact that he had helped convert so many members to what he felt to be a fraudulent organization based on too many lies to be ignored any further. Shortly after his discovery, Malcolm began receiving media criticism for a comment he made about the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Malcolm had said, “[Kennedy] never foresaw the chickens would come home to roost so soon.” Muhammad silenced Malcolm for 90 days after the statement. Malcolm felt he had been silenced for much different reasons. In March 1964 Malcolm X terminated his relations with the NOI. Compelled to steer the masses away from the teachings of the deceitful NOI Malcolm founded his own religious organization, the Muslim Mosque, Inc. Later that year, Malcolm decided to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca, which proved to be life altering for the very racist public figure. For the first time, Malcolm shared his thoughts and beliefs with different cultures, and found the response to be overwhelmingly positive.
When he returned, Malcolm said he had met “blonde-haired, blue-eyed men I could call my brothers.” Finally, Malcolm saw through the hate he held since his childhood. Now, when he would speak, instead of only having a message for Afro-Americans, he delivered a message for all races. After Malcolm left the NOI and renounced Elijah Muhammad, relations between the two grew hostile. Soon, the FBI received information that Malcolm had been targeted for assassination. One undercover agent was even ordered to plant a bomb in Malcolms car. On February 14, 1965, the home where Malcolm, Betty, and their four daughters lived was firebombed; Malcolm and his family were able to escape without injury. After this instance and other repeated attempts on his life, Malcolm rarely traveled anywhere without bodyguards. On February 21, 1965 Malcolms enemies were successful in their attempts. At a speaking engagement in the Manhattans Audubon Ballroom on February 21, 1965, three gunmen rushed Malcolm onstage. They shot him 15 times at close range. The 39-year-old was pronounced dead on arrival at New Yorks Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. Fifteen hundred people attended Malcolms funeral in Harlem on February 27, 1965, at the Faith Temple Church of God in Christ