Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925. His father was a preacher and although his family moved several times for safety from white supremacists groups, their home was still burned down. Malcolm’s family also believed that they were responsible for his father’s death as he was found lying across streetcar tracks. Both incidents had been ruled accidents.
Malcolm developed into a strong leader after being imprisoned for burglary. It was there that he began reading to pass the time by and became a part of the Lost-Found Nation of Islam. He started going by X instead of Little, because that was the name his ancestors inherited from slave owners. Eventually, Malcolm became one of the most well-known faces for black Muslims.
His involvement in the civil rights eras of 1950 and 1960 was important as he promoted black pride, separate black communities, and violence as a means of self-defense. He believed that his approached would benefit the approach Dr. King took:
“I want Dr. King to know that I didn’t come to Selma to make his job difficult. I really did come thinking I could make it easier. If the white people realize what the alternative is, perhaps they will be more willing to hear Dr. King.”
He also stated that although they had different approaches they both wanted the same thing—freedom.
After the controversy of Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm’s hero, he broke ties with the black Muslims Nation of Islam. Following a trip to Mecca, Malcolm came back with a new ideology that was less hateful and more optimistic about peaceful resolutions for America. “The true brotherhood I had seen had influenced me to recognize that anger can blind human vision,” he said. “America is the first country … that can actually have a bloodless revolution.” Unfortunately, shortly after his return Malcolm X was killed by black Muslims on February 21, 1965 before he was able to deliver a speech in Manhattan.