Malcolm X : Malik El-Shabazz El-Hajj (1925 – 1965)
The son of an African American Baptist preacher, Earl Little, was born in Omaha, Nebraska, on 19th May, 1925. Malcolm’s mother, Louise Little, was born in the West Indies. Her mother was black but her father was a white man. Earl Little was a member of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and a supporter of Marcus Garvey. This got him into trouble with the Ku Klux Klan and after the family were threatened they moved to Lansing, Michigan. Little continued to make speeches in favour of UNIA and in 1929 the family house was burned down by members of the Black Legion. In 1931 Little was found dead by a streetcar railway track.
Although no one was convicted of the crime it was generally believed that Little had been murdered by the Black Legionnaires. Malcolm’s mother never recovered from her husband’s murder and in 1937 was sent to the State Mental Hospital at Kalamazoo due to state and financial pressures, where she stayed for the next twenty-six years. Little moved to Boston to live with his sister. He worked as a waiter in Harlem and after becoming addicted to cocaine, turned to crime. In 1946 he was convicted of burglary and sentenced to ten years imprisonment. While in prison he was converted to Islam.
Malcolm X : El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz
After his release from prison in 1952 he moved to Chicago where he met Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam sect. He changed his name to X, a custom among Elijah Muhammad‘s followers who considered their family names to have originated with white slaveholders. Malcolm soon became a leading figure in the Nation of Islam.
He went on several speaking tours and helped establish several new mosques. He was eventually assigned to be minister of the mosque in New York’s Harlem area. Founder and editor of Muhammad Speaks, Malcolm rejected integration and racial equality and instead advocated black power. Malcolm was suspended from the movement by Elijah Muhammad after he made a series of extremist speeches. This included his comments that the assassination of John F. Kennedy was a “case of chickens coming home to roost”.
In March 1964 Malcolm left the Nation of Islam due to internal differences and established his own religious organisation, the Organization of Afro-American Unity. After a pilgrimage to Mecca, Malcolm rejected the former separatist beliefs of Elijah Muhammad and advocated world brotherhood. Malcolm now urged African Americans to join with sympathetic whites to bring Western cultural created racism to an end.
Malcolm X announced the establishment of the OAAU at a public meeting in New York’s Audubon Ballroom on June 28, 1964.
The Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) was a Pan-Africanist organization founded by Malcolm X in 1964. The OAAU was modeled on the Organisation of African Unity, which had impressed Malcolm X during his visit to Africa in April and May 1964. The purpose of the OAAU was to fight for the human rights of African Americans and promote cooperation amongAfricans and people of African descent in the Americas.
Malcolm X, along with John Henrik Clarke, wrote the following into the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU)
Basic Unity Program:
- Restoration: “In order to release ourselves from the oppression of our enslavers then, it is absolutely necessary for the Afro-American to restore communication with Africa.”
- Reorientation: “We can learn much about Africa by reading informative books.”
- Education: “The Organization of Afro-American Unity will devise original educational methods and procedures which will liberate the minds of our children. We will … encourage qualified Afro-Americans to write and publish the textbooks needed to liberate our minds … educating them [our children] at home.”
- Economic Security: “After the Emancipation Proclamation … it was realized that the Afro-American constituted the largest homogeneous ethnic group with a common origin and common group experience in the United States and, if allowed to exercise economic or political freedom, would in a short period of time own this country. We must establish a technician bank. We must do this so that the newly independent nations of Africa can turn to us who are their brothers for the technicians they will need now and in the future.”
The OAAU pushed for black control of every aspect of the black community. At the founding rally, Malcolm X stated that the organization’s principal concern was the human rights of blacks, but that it would also focus on voter registration, school boycotts, rent strikes, housing rehabilitation, and social programs for addicts, unwed mothers, and troubled children. Malcolm X saw the OAAU as a way of “un-brainwashing” black people, ridding them of the lies they had been told about themselves and their culture.
Malcolm X was shot dead at a party meeting in Harlem on 21st February, 1965. Three Black Muslims were later convicted of the murder.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X, based on interviews he had given to the journalist, Alex Haley, was published in 1965.
It is a time for martyrs now, and if I am to be one, it will be for the cause of brotherhood. Thats the only thing that can save this country.
“A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything.”
“Don’t be in a hurry to condemn because he doesn’t do what you do or think as you think or as fast. There was a time when you didn’t know what you know today.”
“Stumbling is not falling.”
“There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance next time.”
“We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock landed on us.”
“It is a time for martyrs now, and if I am to be one, it will be for the cause of brotherhood. That’s the only thing that can save this country.” – February 19, 1965 (2 days before he was murdered by Nation of Islam followers)
“Without education, you’re not going anywhere in this world.”
“When a person places the proper value on freedom, there is nothing under the sun that he will not do to acquire that freedom. Whenever you hear a man saying he wants freedom, but in the next breath he is going to tell you what he won’t do to get it, or what he doesn’t believe in doing in order to get it, he doesn’t believe in freedom. A man who believes in freedom will do anything under the sun to acquire . . . or preserve his freedom.”
“You don’t have to be a man to fight for freedom. All you have to do is to be an intelligent human being.”