On this day 48 years ago, life ended for one of the most profound civil rights figures in American history.
At Manhattan, New York’s Audubon Ballroom on February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was delivering a speech to an enthusiastic crowd. In the middle of the ceremony, three gunmen rushed onstage and pumped 15 bullets into the body of Malcolm X.
Moments later at New York’s Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, Malcolm X was pronounced dead on arrival. He was 39-years-old. For today’s edition of Your Black History, BlackBlueDog.com honors the legacy of a martyr for the justice of black Americans.
Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska. His mother, Louise Little was a homemaker who took care of Malcolm and his seven other siblings. His father, Earl Little was an outspoken Baptist minister. Rev. Earl Little was also a staunch supporter of Marcus Garvey, a prominent Black Nationalist leader.
Early in his life, Malcolm X saw the ubiquitous evil of racism firsthand. The noble civil rights activities of Malcolm’s father made him a target of the Black Legion. The Black Legion is a treacherous splinter group of the Ku Klux Klan. Their tactics were known to be less organized, yet more ferocious than the tactics of the Klan.
Due to violent terrorists acts perpetrated against his family by the Black Legion, Rev. Earl Little had to move his wife and children to different homes twice before his son Malcolm’s fourth birthday. By 1929, the Little household was living in Lansing, Michigan. However, the family’s efforts to escape the wrath of the Black Legion were unsuccessful. Eventually the Little’s family home in Lansing was burned completely to the ground.
Rev. Earl Little refused to allow the Black Legion to break his enduring spirit of activism. He continued to fight the good fight of speaking out against the deplorable institution of Jim Crow and the terrorist acts of white hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan. However, the Black Legion would subsequently have Rev. Little within its deadly grasp.
Two years after Rev. Little’s family home was burned down, members of the Black Legion kidnapped Earl Little, beat him, strapped him to train tracks, and left him to die. He was later run over by a passing train. Police in Lansing, Michigan scantily investigated the case and ruled Rev. Little’s death as an accident. At a young age, the seeds of black nationalism and resentment against the white-dominated establishment were being planted in Malcolm.
The death of Malcolm X’s father at the hands of white supremacists destroyed his family. Shortly after his father’s death, Malcolm’s mother suffered a nervous breakdown so severe that she was committed to a mental institution. Malcolm and his seven siblings were all scattered across the country in various foster homes.
Malcolm was relocated to the east coast where he attended public school. He was a bright student but eventually dropped out of high school. He began a life of petty crime with a friend named Malcolm “Shorty” Jarvis. In 1946, Malcolm and his partner-in-crime were sentenced to 10 years in prison for burglary.
When Malcolm was paroled from prison in 1952, he joined the Nation of Islam (NOI) at the behest of his brother, Reginald. The NOI was led by Elijah Muhammad, a former Baptist minister. Muhammad preached a message of self-reliance for black people and the firm resistance against the white-dominated establishment in America.
Malcolm dropped Little as his surname and went by X to signify his lost tribal name. He quickly rose to the top of the ranks inside the NOI and became one of the organization’s leading spokesman. His message of complete separation from whites put him at odds with other black leaders in the Civil Rights Movement, most notably Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The Muslim faith requires subscribers to attend a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The one-time pilgrimage to the birthplace of Islam is expected of Muslims who are financially fit to do so. Malcolm X went to Mecca for his pilgrimage after breaking away from the NOI due to his disillusionment with the organization’s leader, Elijah Muhammad. Malcolm’s move toward establishing his own movement would seal his fate.
The NOI was infiltrated by the FBI, which was a mission by the bureau’s COINTELPRO operation to destabilize black nationalism in America. Malcolm X’s assassins (Talmadge Hayer, Norman Butler, and Thomas Johnson) were all members of the NOI. Malcolm X’s funeral and internment ceremony was held in Harlem, New York on February 27, 1965.
Forty-eight years later, Malcolm’s X message is still relevant due to the awful trend of black-on-black crime in urban cities across America. Below is one of his most memorable quotes:
“There can be no black and white unity until there is first some black unity. We cannot think of being acceptable to others until we have first proven acceptable to ourselves.”