“By any means necessary.”
These were the most famous words uttered by the man Malcolm Little, or as we know him, Malcolm X.
Malcolm Little was born in Omaha, Nebraska, on May 19, 1925. His father, Earl Little was a Baptist lay speaker. Earl was a local leader of the UNIA (Universal Negro Improvement Association). After Malcolm’s family received threats, they swiftly relocated to Milwaukie, Wisconsin, and then to Lansing, Michigan. In 1929, their home in Lansing was burned down; many thought it to be the Black Legion, a white supremacist group. On September 28, 1931, Earl Little was killed by what was supposedly an “accident”. Malcolm later remembered thinking “How could my father bash his head, and then go under a streetcar.” Even though, Earl Little had two life insurance policies, his family only received a small amount of money. In 1938, Malcolm’s mother, Louise Little, was considered legally insane and put in a state mental hospital. Malcolm was a very intelligent student in school, but dropped out after being told by a teacher that being a lawyer was no job for a Negro. Malcolm then moved to Boston in 1941, to live with his sister Ella Little Collins.
Malcolm lived in a dominantly black neighborhood, and was drawn to the cultural and social life of the place. During his time in Boston, he worked at New Haven Railroad. Between 1943 and 1946, Malcolm drifted between jobs and homes. In 1943, the US Military ordered Little to apply for military service. Malcolm put on a display to avoid being drafted and told the recruiting officer that he would “steal us some guns, and kill some crackers.” He was classified as “mentally impaired for military service” and was issued a 4-F card, relieving him of his military service. In 1945, Little would return to Boston to start robbing the homes of wealthy white families and was arrested while trying to repair a watch that was reported as stolen at all jewelry stores. Malcolm was put into prison for 8 to 10 years. “Satan” was a name used frequently for Malcolm during his tenure in prison. In 1948, Malcolm’s brother told him about the Nation of Islam. Malcolm wrote a letter to the leader of the Nation of Islam, Elijah Muhammad. Muhammad told him to atone for all of his crimes and bow down to Allah. It took Malcolm a week to bend his knees. But he finally became a member of the Nation of Islam. In 1952, Malcolm was released from prison.
Malcolm now decided to meet with Elijah Muhammad in Chicago, Illinois. During that time, Malcolm changed his surname to X as many members of Nation of Islam did. X gave him a true name, not the one that his forebears were forced upon. Malcolm, while working with the Nation, preached that black people were more powerful than whites and that the demise of the white race was imminent. He also proposed a complete separate country for black people. Civil rights organizations described X and the Nation of Islam as extremists. But on March 8, 1964, Malcolm X decided to leave the Nation of Islam and become a Sunni Muslim. Malcolm then decided to leave for his pilgrimage to Mecca and was questioned as to whether he was an authentic Muslim. Separated for 20 hours from his group, he was finally allowed to continue on his pilgrimage. Malcolm was then a guest of the state and after finishing hajji, stayed with Prince Faisal. Malcolm thought that Islam was the way in which racial problems could be overcome.
The year of 1965 was to be Malcolm’s last. On February 21, 1965, Malcolm was shot with 3 bullets while at Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom. The men who were accused of this crime were Talmadge Hayer, Norman 3X Butler, and Thomas 15X Johnson. Malcolm was rushed to the nearest hospital but was pronounced dead at 3:30 PM. Over 14,000 people came to the funeral of Malcolm X.
Malcolm X, was one of the most influential people of the 20th century, his controversial ways of trying to reach civil rights were achieved, but many years after his death. There are many words that would describe Malcolm X, but the ones that fit the most were:
“By any means necessary.”