Hasan ‘Mike’ Bashir
750-1000 Word Essay
Who is Malcolm X? Born El-Hajj Malik-Shabazz, Malcolm X became is a visionary, a leader and most importantly, a revolutionary.(Ruthven) He is the quintessential example of how people can change, how they can become someone different. Malcolm X had a very hard and unstable upbringing. His only constant as a child was his father who influenced Malcolm X’s later years greatly. Malcolm X proceeding to grow into an adolescent as a product of his environment; he entered a career of crime. Later on, he joined the radical Nation of Islam and embodied their ideals in everything he did. With time, he converted to the peaceful and true version of Islam. Through his adult life, he was outspoken as an African-American leader and activist, particularly followed by the angry and young. His life was cut short by 16 bullets during a speech.
Malcolm X was born in the roaring 20s; during the years of great advancements, enlightenment and an upturn of the status quo. Surprisingly the place of his birth is Omaho, Nebraska.(Estate) His father, Earl Little, was a speaker in terms of black pride and the associated Pan-African movement. Malcolm X, then known as Malcolm Little, was surrounded by his father’s people and stories; stories of uncles getting lynched and violently murdered, stories of the ‘white devil’ and the Ku Klux Klan movement. Earl Little also spoke for the Universal Negro Improvement Association, through which Malcolm learned self-reliance.(Salley) In due partially to his father’s views and outspokenness, the family was forced to flee in 1926 to Lansing, Michigan.
Some of the clearest indicators of Malcolm’s troubled adult life stem from his childhood. During his childhood, Malcolm’s light skin color and red tinged hair was seen as a status symbol, both positively and negatively. This was a product of his maternal grandfather, and initially Malcolm was proud of it. His father also viewed it as a status symbol in the black and white world they lived in.(X) Conversely, Malcolm’s mother despised his skin tone and subsequently treated him with contempt and hatred. To add fuel to the fire, Malcolm tried to grow up as an intellectual Negro in white America. One incident with proliferating results was when Malcolm was told that “being a lawyer is no realistic goal for a nigger.”(X) This destroyed his quest for knowledge and added to the hatred of white people. To top everything off, when Malcolm learned the true story behind his white grandfather, he exclaimed that he “hated every drop of that white rapist's blood that is in me.”(X) Both of these events had detrimental effects later in Malcolm’s life. But the biggest and most damaging aspect of his childhood came with the death of his father. Earl Little was murdered in Lansing via street car. Earl’s head was depressed inwards from a severe blow and was then placed on the street car tracks while a streetcar proceeding to run over him. This was carried out by the Black Legion, a group who had terrorized Malcolm’s family before.(Estate) Afterwards, Malcolm’s mother was declared legally insane and the children were wards of the state. His permanent came to be his older sister’s residence in Boston.(X)
His early 20s were filled with crime, drugs, pimping and racketeering, along with some part time employment. The nature of his job with New Haven Railroad allowed him to see many places and associate with many people. Boston allowed him to be in a community of mostly black for the first time, amplifying his want to live separately from the whites. Throughout this time, his hatred of white people was exponentially increased and exemplified by robbing rich white families in the surrounding areas.(Natambu) A stolen watch was his ultimate downfall, which led to 8-10 years in prison.
In prison, the hate for whites was compounded. After initially keeping to himself, Malcolm befriended a man by the name of Bimbi. The focal point for his respect was that Bimbi could command total respect by employing choice words; this was the first person in Malcolm’s life who did not resort to violence.(X) While in prison, Malcolm converted to the Nation of Islam after encouragement from his family members. The one idea Malcolm embodied was that white people are devils, proven by the fact that Malcolm did not know one white individual not surrounded by greed, dishonesty and hatred. He also agreed with the point that blacks needed to live separately from the whites. (Estate)
When Malcolm was released in 1952 he joined the Nation of Islam in Chicago. Upon joining, Malcolm changed his last name to X, “'X' replaced the white slave master name of 'Little' which some blue-eyed devil named Little had imposed upon [his] paternal forebears.”(X) Malcolm’s swift rise in the religion was due to his dizzying command of words which he learned in prison. Malcolm advocated radical ideals to an ever increasing audience, ideals such as blacks are the original humans, white people are the devil, black people are better and that the fall of whites was impending. Also, he called for a separate black state, contradictory to the anti-segregation views of typical civil rights groups. Finally, he called for all of this “by any means necessary”(X), including answering violence with violence.(Estate)
But Malcolm would not continue to preach for the Nation of Islam. While Malcolm was a member because he believed, others were members for the power and money. Once Malcolm started to overshadow those shallow souls, tensions rose.(Estate) He finally split from the Nation of Islam after a pilgrimage to Mecca. This is where is saw men, women, and children of every creed, young or old, rich or poor, black or white, standing shoulder to shoulder, dressed in the same fashion, facing the same way. This was extremely profound to Malcolm who then publically denounced the Nation of Islam’s teachings.(X) He was out of the desert of despair and into the oasis of hope. His next few years were spent globe-trotting, spreading the word of peace and unity, helping those who could not help themselves and repenting for his sins.
In the end, a sawed off shotgun and 16 bullets fired from two pistols led to his ultimate demise. Hitters working for the Nation of Islam carried out an attack during a speech on February 21, 1965.(Estate)
This is a man who went from a budding young sponge ready to take on the world to a stereotypical gangster in prison. From then he went to a radical preaching violence and hatred to a preacher of peace and unity. This is someone who was severely influenced by those around him but in the end was able to choose for himself and died a true human being.
Estate of Malcolm. "About." MalcolmX.com. Web. 9 Feb. 2011. <http://www.malcolmx.com/about/bio.html>.
Malise Ruthven (1997). Islam: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. p. 147.
Natambu, Kofi (2002). The Life and Work of Malcolm X. Indianapolis: Alpha Books.
Salley, Columbus (1999). The Black 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential African-Americans, Past and Present. New York: Citadel Press.
X, Malcolm, and Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: One World/Ballantine, 1992. Print.