Wall of Fame: Malcolm X


Institute of Caribbean Studies

Release Date

Thursday, June 11, 2015


Malcolm X was born in North Omaha, Nebraska to Louise Norton Little, a home maker from Grenada, and Earl Little, a Baptist minister. The senior Little was very outspoken and an avid supporter of the Back to Africa movement led by Marcus Garvey. The family was threatened by white supremacists several times and moved often, finally settling in Lansing, Michigan where Malcolm grew up. When Malcolm was six, his father died in a suspicious hit and run accident. Three of Malcolm's uncles were also killed by white supremacists. Malcolm's mother suffered with poor mental health for the rest of her life and when she was eventually hospitalized, Malcolm and his siblings were separated into orphanages and living with extended family.

Malcolm started stealing early in life to help support his family. He continued in a criminal lifestyle after dropping out of junior high school in Michigan. The teacher had told him that his aspiration to be a lawyer was 'not realistic for a nigger'. Malcolm was moved to Boston to live with his sister where he worked several odd jobs and continued in his criminal lifestyle. When World War II broke out, he got a job on the rail road and moved to Harlem, New York. He engaged in a variety of illegal and illicit activities. Malcolm operated with a burglary ring that targeted the homes of rich white people in Boston for one year before being remanded to state custody for a ten year sentence. In jail he was introduced to the teachings of Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam.

Malcolm stopped eating pork, smoking, gambling, and read voraciously while in prison. He was paroled after seven years and joined up with Elijah Muhammad and the Nation in Detroit, Michigan. After a while he became the Minister of Temples in Harlem and Boston and founded new temples in Hartford and Philadelphia. He was an intelligent, articulate speaker and was appointed national spokesman for the Nation. He brought increased attention to the platform of the Nation with his fiery speeches, he used newspapers, radio and television to spread the message and reportedly increased membership from 500 in 1952 to 30,000 in 1963.

Malcolm became disillusioned with the Nation after discovering the illicit affairs of Elijah Muhammad. He made a pilgrimage to Mecca and toured Africa after which his views about racial separation were transformed. He founded the Muslim Mosque, Inc., converted to Sunni Islam, changed his name to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz and started preaching about brotherhood for all races. Malcolm had long been under surveillance by the FBI. Their planted agents noted increased chatter about plans for Malcolm's assassination. Members and Ministers of the Nation, and Elijah Muhammad himself made increasingly open threats to his life for leaving the Nation, and for usurping Muhammad's position as leader of the Black Nation in America. His house was fire bombed in February, 1965 and one week later, he was killed while making a speech at the Audubon Ballroom.

Latest Stories