El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz
Malcolm X, (May 19, 1925 – February 21, 1965), born Malcolm Little, also known as Detroit Red, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, and Omowale was a National Spokesman for the Nation of Islam and an African American Muslim Leader. He was also founder of the Muslim Mosque, Inc. and the Organization of Afro-American Unity.
During his life, Malcolm went from being a promising young student to a street-wise Boston hoodlum to one of the most prominent black nationalist leaders in the United States to a martyr of Islam. As a militant leader, Malcolm X advocated black pride, economic self-reliance, and identity politics. He ultimately rose to become a world renowned African American/Pan-Africanist and human rights activist.
Malcolm X was assassinated in New York City on February 21, 1965 on the first day of National Brotherhood Week.
He explained the name he chose by saying, "To take one's 'X' is to take on a certain mystery, a certain possibility of power in the eyes of one's peers and one's enemies ... The 'X'; announced what you had been and what you had become: Ex-smoker, Ex-drinker, Ex-Christian, Ex-slave." 
The 'X' also stood for the unknown original surname of the slaves from whom Malcolm X descended, in preference to continuing to use a name which would have been given by the slave owner. This rationale made many members of the Nation of Islam change their surnames to X.
Birth and Early Years
Young Malcolm XMalcolm Little was born in Omaha, Nebraska to Earl Little and Louise Norton. His father, an outspoken Baptist lay preacher and supporter of Marcus Garvey, was believed to have been killed by the Black Legion, a white supremacist group in Lansing, Michigan in 1931. His Grenadian mother was also an avid Garveyite, and did reporting work for Garvey's organizational publication. Malcolm and his siblings had been split up and sent to different foster homes when Louise Little was declared legally insane. In 1939, she was formally committed to the State Mental Hospital at Kalamazoo, Michigan, and remained there until Malcolm and his brothers and sisters got her released twenty-six years later.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X and local folklore held that, following the death of his father, he lived as a boy on Charles Street in downtown East Lansing. However, the 1930 U.S. Census (released in 2002) reports him living on a completely different Charles Street, in the low-income Urbandale neighborhood in Lansing Township, between Lansing and East Lansing. Later, while in high school, he lived in Mason, an almost-all-white small town twelve miles to the south.
Malcolm graduated from junior high school at the top of his class, but dropped out soon after an admired teacher told him that his aspirations of being a lawyer were "no realistic goal for a nigger"(The Autobiography of Malcolm X p.43). After enduring a series of foster homes, Malcolm was first sent to a detention center and then later moved to Boston to live with his older half-sister, Ella Little Collins.
He found work as a shoe-shiner at a Lindy Hop nightclub; in his autobiography, he says that he once shined the shoes of Duke Ellington and other notable black musicians. Malcom went by the nickname "Detroit Red" because the color of his hair. After some time, he moved to New York City, where, in Harlem, he became involved in drug dealing, gambling, pimping, racketeering, and robbery (referred to collectively by Malcolm as "hustling"). When he was examined for the World War II draft, military physicians classified him to be "mentally disqualified for military service." He explains in his autobiography that, putting on a display to avoid the draft, he told the examining officer that he couldn't wait to get his hands on a gun so he could "kill some crackers". His approach worked, and he was given a classification that ensured he would not be drafted.
In 1945, Malcolm X fled from Harlem after a falling out with a fellow hustler and returned to Boston to live with his sister. In February 1946, he was arrested for robbery, convicted, and sentenced to seven years in prison. It was in prison that, at the suggestion of his brother, Malcolm X began his correspondance with Elijah Muhammad. This would transform his life, and he formally converted to Islam while still in prison. After being paroled in 1952, Malcolm X took the X surname that would identify him for the rest of his life. He said it was a symbollic indicator of an African name stolen from him that he would never know. He began working for the Nation of Islam under the guidance of Elijah Muhammad.
In 1958 Malcolm married Betty X (née Sanders) in Lansing, Michigan. They had six daughters together, all of whom carried the surname of Shabazz. Their names were Attallah (also spelled Attillah), born in 1958; Qubilah, born in 1960; Ilyasah, born in 1962; Gamilah (also spelled Gumilah), born in 1964; and twins, Malaak and Malikah, born after Malcolm's death in 1965.
Religious Leadership and FameIn 1954, Malcolm X was selected to lead the Nation of Islam's mosque #7 on Lenox Avenue in Harlem. He rapidly expanded its membership, and the mosque reached a total membership of about 30,000 under his guidance. He also founded mosques in Philadelphia and Boston.
Malcolm X was a compelling public speaker, and was frequently sought after for quotations by the print media, radio, and television programs from around the world. In the years between his adoption of the Nation of Islam in 1952 and his split with the organization in 1964, he always espoused the Nation's teachings, including referring to whites as "devils" who had been created in a misguided breeding program by a black scientist, and predicting the inevitable (and imminent) return of blacks to their natural place at the top of the social order.
In the early 1960s, Malcolm was increasingly exposed to rumors of Elijah Muhammad's extramarital affairs with young secretaries. Adultery is severely shunned in the teachings of the Nation of Islam. At first, Malcolm brushed these rumors aside. Later he spoke with the women making the accusations and believed them. In 1963, Elijah Muhammad himself confirmed to Malcolm that the rumors were true, and claimed that this followed a pattern established by biblical prophets. Despite being unsatisfied with the excuses, and being disenchanted by other ministers using Nation of Islam funds to line their own pockets, Malcolm's faith in Elijah Muhammad did not waver.
By the summer of 1963, tensions within the Nation of Islam reached a boiling point. Malcolm believed that Elijah Muhammad was jealous of his popularity (as were several senior ministers). Malcolm watched the March on Washington critically, unable to understand why black people were excited over a demonstration "run by whites in front of a statue of a president who has been dead for a hundred years and who didn't like us when he was alive". Later in the year, following the John F. Kennedy assassination, Malcolm delivered a speech as he regularly would. However, when asked to comment upon the assassination, he replied that it was a case of "chickens coming home to roost" — that the violence that Kennedy had failed to stop (and at times refused to rein in) had come around to claim his life. Most explosively, he then added that with his rural origins, "Chickens coming home to roost never made me sad. It only made me glad". This comment led to widespread public outcry and led to the Nation of Islam's publicly censuring Malcolm X. Although retaining his post and rank as minister, he was banned by Elijah Muhammad from public speaking for ninety days. Malcolm obeyed and kept silent.
In the spring of 1963, Malcolm started collaborating on The Autobiography of Malcolm X with Alex Haley. He also publicly announced his break from the Nation of Islam on March 8, 1964 and the founding of the Muslim Mosque, Inc. on March 12, 1964. At this point, Malcolm mostly adhered to the teachings of the Nation of Islam, but began modifying them, explicitly advocating political and economic black nationalism as opposed to the NOI's exclusivist religious nationalism. In March and April, he made the series of famous speeches called "The Ballot or the Bullet" . Malcolm was in contact with several orthodox Muslims, who encouraged him to learn about orthodox Islam. He soon converted to orthodox Islam, and as a result decided to make his Hajj.
On April 13, 1964, Malcolm departed JFK Airport, New York for Cairo, Egypt by way of Frankfurt, Germany. It was the second time Malcolm had been to Africa. Malcolm left Cairo, arriving in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia at about three in the morning. He was automatically suspect due to his inability to speak Arabic and his United States passport. He was separated from the group he came with and was isolated. He spent about 20 hours wearing the ihram, a two-piece garment comprised of two white unhemmed sheets--the first of which is worn draped over the torso and the second of which (the bottom) is secured by a belt.
It was at this time he remembered the book The Eternal Message of Muhammad by Abdul Rahman Hassan Azzam and which Dr. Mahmoud Yousseff Sharwabi had presented to him with his visa approval. He called Azzam's son who arranged for his release. At the younger Azzam's home he met Azzam Pasha who gave Malcolm his suite at the Jeddah Palace Hotel. The next morning Muhammad Faisal, the son of Prince Faisal, visited and informed him that he was to be a state guest. The deputy chief of protocol accompanied Malcolm to the Hajj Court.
It therefore was a mere formality for Sheikh Muhammad Harkon to allow Malcolm to make his Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca). On April 19 he completed the Umrah, making the seven circuits around the Kaaba, drinking from the well of Zamzam and running between the hills of Safah and Marwah seven times.
The trip proved to be life-altering. Malcolm met many devout Muslims of a number of different races, men whose faith and whose practice of Islam he couldn't help but respect. He believed that racial barriers could potentially be overcome, and that Islam was the one religion that conceivably could erase all racial problems.
A Changed Man
On May 21, 1964, he returned to the United States as a traditional Sunni Muslim (and with a new name — El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz).
When Malcolm returned to the United States, he gave a speech about his visit. This time he gave a much larger meaning and message than before. The speech was not only for the Muslims, instead it was for the whole nation and for all races. He said,
"Human rights are something you were born with. Human rights are your God-given rights. Human rights are the rights that are recognized by all nations of this earth."
"In the past, yes, I have made sweeping indictments of all white people. I will never be guilty of that again — as I know now that some white people are truly sincere, that some truly are capable of being brotherly toward a black man. The true Islam has shown me that a blanket indictment of all white people is as wrong as when whites make blanket indictments against blacks."
"Since I learned the truth in Mecca my dearest friends have come to include all kinds — some Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, agnostics, and even atheists! I have friends who are called capitalists, socialists, and communists! Some of my friends are moderates, conservatives, extremists — some are even Uncle Toms! My friends today are black, brown, red, yellow, and white!" 
Along with A. Peter Bailey and others, El-Shabazz then founded the U. S. branch of the Organization of Afro-American Unity. Patterned after the Organization of African Unity (OAU), Africa's continental organization, which was established at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in May 1963, the OAAU resolved to establish a non-religious and non-sectarian program for human rights. The OAAU included all people of African ancestry in the Western Hemisphere, as well as those on the African continent.
Malcolm X visited Africa on three separate occasions, once in 1959 and twice in 1964. During his visits, he met officials, as well as spoke on television and radio in: Cairo, Egypt; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Dar Es Salaam, Tanganyika (now Tanzania); Lagos and Ibadan, Nigeria; Accra, Winneba, and Legon, Ghana; Conakry, Guinea; Algiers, Algeria; and Casablanca, Morocco.
Malcolm first went to Africa in summer of 1959. He traveled to Egypt (United Arab Republic), Sudan, Nigeria and Ghana to arrange a tour for Elijah Muhammad, which occurred in December 1959. The first of Malcolm's two trips to Africa in 1964 lasted from April 13 until May 21. On May 8, following his speech at Trenchard Hall on the campus of the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, he attended a reception in the Students' Union Hall held for him by the Muslim Students' Society. During this reception the students bestowed upon him the name "Omowale" (Oh-Moh-wah-lay), meaning "the son returns home" in the Yoruba language.
Malcolm returned to New York from Africa via Paris, France, on May 21, 1964. On July 9, he again left the United States for Africa, spending a total of 18 weeks abroad. On July 17, 1964, Malcolm addressed the Organization of African Unity's first ordinary assembly of heads of state and governments in Cairo as a representative of the OAAU. On August 21, 1964, he made a press statement on behalf of the OAAU regarding the second African summit conference of the OAU. In it, he explained how a strong and independent "United States of Africa" is a victory for the awakening of African Americans. By the time he returned to the United States on November 24, 1964, Malcolm had established an international connection between Africans on the continent and those in the diaspora.
However, Malcolm never changed his views that Black people in the U.S. were justified in defending themselves from their White aggressors. On June 28, 1964 at the founding rally of the OAAU he said, "The time for you and me to allow ourselves to be brutalized nonviolently has passed. Be nonviolent only with those who are nonviolent to you. And when you can bring me a nonviolent racist, bring me a nonviolent segregationist, then I'll get nonviolent. But don't teach me to be nonviolent until you teach some of those crackers to be nonviolent." 
Visiting the UK
On 12 February 1965 Malcolm X visited Smethwick, near Birmingham, which had become a byword for racial division after the 1964 general election when the Conservative Party won the parliamentary seat using the slogan, amongst others, "If you want a nigger for your neighbour, vote Labour" . He visited a pub with a non-colored policy, and purposely visited a street where the local council would buy houses and sell them to white families, to avoid black families moving in. He was accused of stirring up racial hatred in the area. 
Malcolm X holding an M1 Carbine and pulling back the curtains to peer out of a window. This photograph is a popular image on T-shirts and often appears with the slogan "By any means necessary."On March 20, 1964, Life magazine published a famous photograph of Malcolm X holding an M1 Carbine and pulling back the curtains to peer out of a window. The photo was taken in connection with Malcolm's declaration that he would defend himself from the daily death threats which he and his family were receiving. Undercover FBI informants warned officials that Malcolm X had been marked for assassination. One officer undercover with the Nation of Islam is said to have reported that he had been ordered to help plant a bomb in Malcolm's car.
Tensions increased between Malcolm and the Nation of Islam. It was alleged that orders were given by members of the Nation of Islam leadership to kill Malcolm; in The Autobiography of Malcolm X, he says that as early as 1963, a member of the Seventh Temple confessed to him having received orders from the Nation of Islam to kill him. The NOI sued to reclaim Malcolm's home in Queens, which they claimed to have paid for, and won. He appealed, and was angry at the thought that his family might soon have no place to live. Then, on the night of February 14, 1965, the house was firebombed. Malcolm and his family survived, and no one was charged in the crime.
A week later on February 21 in Manhattan's Audubon Ballroom, Malcolm had just begun delivering a speech when a disturbance broke out in the crowd of 400. A man yelled, "Get your hand outta my pocket! Don't be messin' with my pockets!" As Malcolm's bodyguards rushed forward to attend to the disturbance, a man rushed forward and shot Malcolm in the chest with a sawed-off shotgun. Two other men quickly charged towards the stage and fired handguns at Malcolm, who was shot 16 times. Angry onlookers in the crowd caught and beat the assassins as they attempted to flee the ballroom. The 39-year-old Malcolm was pronounced dead on arrival at New York's Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. He was killed by the shotgun blasts, the other bullets having been directed into his legs.
Although a police report once existed stating that two men were detained in connection with the shooting, that report disappeared, and the investigation was inconclusive. Two suspects were named by witnesses — Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson — however both were known as Nation of Islam agents and would have had difficulty entering the ballroom on that evening.
Three men were eventually charged in the case. Talmadge Hayer confessed to having fired shots into Malcolm's body, but he testified that Butler and Johnson were not present and were not involved in the shooting. All three were convicted.
A complete examination of the assassination and investigation is available in The Smoking Gun: The Malcolm X Files, a collection of primary sources relating to the assassination.
According to The Malcolm X Project at Columbia University, approximately 30,000 mourners filed past the casket of Malcolm X to pay their respects. The funeral took place on February 27, 1965 at the Faith Temple Church of God in Christ (now Child's Memorial Temple Church of God in Christ). Ossie Davis, alongside Ahmed Osman, delivered a stirring eulogy, describing Malcolm as "Our shining black prince". At the gravesite after the ceremony, friends took the shovels away from the waiting gravediggers and buried Malcolm themselves. Malcolm X was buried at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.
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