“A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything.” –Malcolm X
Malcolm X was assassinated on this day in 1965 while addressing his Organization of Afro-American Unity in New York City. Unlike other civil rights activists, Malcolm X advocated for self-defense in the face of violence.
Born Malcolm Little in Nebraska in 1925, he was the son of James Earl Little, a Baptist preacher who advocated Black Nationalist ideals. Threats from the Ku Klux Klan forced the family to move to Michigan, where his father was murdered in 1931.
At the age of 21, Malcolm was arrested for burglary. It was in prison that he encountered the teaching of Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam, which combined Islam with Black Nationalism and encouraged young African-Americans struggling in segregated America. Malcolm changed his last name to “X” to symbolize his stolen African identity.
After six years, he was released from prison and became a supporter and leader of the Black Muslim faith in New York.
Malcolm formally left the Nation of Islam in the 1960s, as he began to believe that Elijah Muhammad didn’t sufficiently support civil rights. In 1964, he founded the Organization of Afro-American Unity, which advocated black identity and stated that racism was the greatest foe for African-Americans.
“I am not a racist. I am against every form of racism and segregation, every form of discrimination. I believe in human beings, and that all human beings should be respected as such, regardless of their color.”
During several international trips to Africa, Europe, and Saudi Arabia, Malcolm said he no longer believed that all white people were evil. He announced he was planning to take the black struggle before the United Nations and said his organization was willing to work with other black organizations and progressive white groups in the United States.
It was during one of these meetings, when, on Feb. 21, 1965, while discussing the policies and programs of his new organization, he was assassinated. An autobiography, the result of collaboration between Malcolm and journalist Alex Haley, was published the same year.
February is Black History Month. Read more about Malcolm X and Black History Month here.
“You don’t have to be a man to fight for freedom. All you have to do is to be an intelligent human being.