Essay Preview: Malcolm X
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Malcolm X was born under the name Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska on May 19th, 1925. His mother, Louise Norton Little, stayed at home tending the eight children they had while his father Earl Little was a Baptist minister. Earl Little was a strong supporter of the Black Nationalist leader Marcus Garvey, who promoted the return of the black people to their homeland in Africa. His activism in civil rights brought death threats from white supremacists, which forced them to move several times. In Michigan, unable to escape the racist actions of the white supremacists, their home was firebombed and destroyed. Two years later Earl was found dead on the trolley tracks. The police ruled his passing as an accident, though the Littles thought otherwise. Louise later suffered a mental breakdown and was committed to a mental institution, with the children being split up amongst different foster homes.
In school, Malcolm was “a smart, focused student. He graduated from junior high at the top of his class. However, when a favorite teacher told Malcolm his dream of becoming a lawyer was “no realistic goal for a nigger,” Malcolm lost interest in school.” (“About Malcolm”) With his teacher successfully putting an end to his dreams of a rightful career, Malcolm went to Boston, Massachusetts working odd jobs before winding up in Harlem, New York. This is where he began participating in petty crimes. Rising from small time hustles to more serious crimes such as armed robbery and drug dealing, it was only a matter of time before Malcolm was caught.
After moving back to Boston, he was arrested in 1946 for a burglary charge and sentenced to 10 years in prison. It was here where Malcolm recalled his days in school and put his long time to use by educating himself. It was during this period of self-enlightenment where, as Kevin Brown explains, “his brother Reginald visited him and told him of his involvement in the Muslim religion.” (241) Intrigued, Malcolm began to study the teachings of the NOI (Nation of Islam) leader Elijah Muhammad. What Muhammad taught was that the white society was purposely put on this earth to actively “keep the African-Americans from empowering themselves and achieving political, economical, and social success.” (“Embraced”) Among other goals, the NOI fought for a separate landmass that would be strictly for black people. When Malcolm was paroled in 1952, he came out of prison with the new name Malcolm X and as a devoted follower of Islamic religion.
It can be easy to see how such a religion would appeal to Malcolm, for what these Islamic teachings declare have been directly felt by him and his family. As Richardson and Fahey write, “the concept of an evil race of white devils appealed to the black people, particularly to convicts like Malcolm, who could in fact document the evilÐfrom extensive personal experience.” (324) Having been persecuted for the color of his skin all his life, this kind of talk could be proven in his mind as true. Malcolm gave up drugs and dishonest moneymaking schemes to become a virtuous better man and help spread the word of the Muslim religion. Now intelligent and articulate, he was appointed as a minister and national spokesman for the NOI. Elijah Muhammad himself also charged him with establishing new mosques in different cities. His charisma, drive and conviction attracted an astounding number of new members. Malcolm was largely credited with “increasing membership in the NOI from 500 in 1952 to 30,000 in 1963.” (“About Malcolm”)
Malcolms strong faith was dealt a blow when he found out Elijah Muhammad had been secretly sleeping with six women within the Nation of Islams organization, some of which had even resulted in children. Since joining the NOI, Malcolm had adhered to the teachings of Muhammad strictly, which included remaining celibate until marriage. Muhammad even asked of Malcolm if he would help cover up the affairs, to which Malcolm refused. He had felt guilty about leading many people to the teachings of Muhammad when the leader himself didnt follow the rules he created. Shortly after discovering this truth, President Kennedy was assassinated. Following a speech that had been prearranged weeks ahead of the assassination, Malcolm was asked by reporters what he thought of the death of Kennedy. “He never foresaw the chickens would come home to roost so soon,” was his response. After a public outcry, Elijah Muhammad silenced Malcolm for ninety days, though he suspected the silence was for a more