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Malcolm X

Malcolm X (May 19, 1925 - February 21, 1965) was a militant Black Nationalist[?] leader in the United States. He was born Malcolm Little in Nebraska. His father Earl, an outspoken Baptist minister and supporter of Marcus Garvey, the president of the UNIA-ACL and the leader African Redemption movement (aka 'back-to-africa' movement), was killed in Lansing, Michigan in 1931.

Malcolm dropped out of school after Junior High[?] and became involved in petty crime in Boston, Massachusetts and eventually Harlem, New York. He was arrested for burglary in 1946 and sentenced to seven years.

While in prison he was introduced to the religion of Islam and became a member of the Nation of Islam. By the time he was released in 1952, Malcolm was a devoted follower. In keeping with Nation of Islam doctrine that the true family names of African-Americans had been lost during the era of slavery, he changed his surname to "X" to signify his lost African family name.

Malcolm was soon appointed a minister and spokesman for the Nation of Islam by its founder, Elijah Muhammad[?]. Malcolm concentrated on the black urban population of the north and rejected Martin Luther King Jr.'s message of non-violence in favour of militant black nationalism. He was largely credited with increasing membership of the Nation of Islam from 500 in 1952 to 30,000 in 1963. He married Betty X (later Betty Shabazz[?]) in 1958. In addition to the media, Malcolm had attracted the attention of the FBI. Agents infiltrated the organization and used bugs, wiretaps and other surveillance equipment to monitor the group's activities.

In the early sixties, Malcolm began to become disillusions with the Nation of Islam amid rumours of Elijah Muhammad's infidelity and the Nation's distancing itself from the civil rights movement. Although the Nation adopted a fiercely anti-white stance, they were rarely seen on the front lines in the South.

Tensions rose until it was revealed that Elijah Muhammad had impregnated six of his teenage secretaries, fathering eight children. Furthermore, a combination of internal differences and an effective COINTELPRO operation resulted in death threats by the Nation against Malcolm.

In order to force himself out of the organization, Malcolm disobeyed direct orders from the nation and criticised President Kennedy shortly after his assassination. His infamous comment to reporters was that in light of the violence of American foreign policy such as the assassination of Lumumba, the assassination of [Kennedy] was a case of "the chickens coming home to roost." Following this he was ordered not to speak to the press as a punitive measure by Elijah Muhammad. This public reprimand and reports of Elijah Muhammad's philandering led Malcolm to split with the Nation of Islam. He left in March 1964 and founded the Muslim Mosque, Inc.

In 1963, he became good friends with a young boxer named Cassius Clay. Clay and Malcolm became good friends and Clay announced his membership in the Nation of Islam the day after his victory over Sonny Liston in February, 1964.

In the spring of 1964, Malcolm made the hajj (or pilgrimage) to Mecca. The trip proved life-altering. The true fellowship between Muslims of all colors that he encountered eroded his belief in a separate nation for blacks and that all whites were "devils". He returned to the United States as a convert to orthodox Islam (and with a new name - El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz) and founded the Organization of Afro-American Unity[?] with a new message on integration, preaching to all races but still with a strong belief in black nationalism.

Tensions increased between Malcolm and the Nation of Islam. Orders were given by the Nation to kill Malcolm. On February 14, 1965 his home in New York was firebombed. A week later on February 21, in the Manhattan's Audubon Ballroom, three gunmen killed Malcolm, shooting him 15 times at close range. He was buried at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. The assassins, all probably members of the Nation of Islam, were convicted of first-degree murder in March 1966. An FBI memo uncovered during the COINTELPRO investigations, however, takes credit for creating the factional dispute that led to Malcolm X's assassination. The exact role of the FBI in his death has never been made clear althought it is known that at least one of Malcolm's bodyguard was an NYPD police officer reporting to the FBI.

Despite his change of view he was most remembered for his anti-White speeches, which were emulated by other black nationalist organizations such as the Black Panthers.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X[?] was written in conjuction with Alex Haley and was published in 1972.

The film Malcolm X[?] was released in 1992, directed by Spike Lee and based on the autobiography it starred Denzel Washington as Malcolm with Angela Bassett[?] as Betty and Al Freeman Jr.[?] as Elijah Muhammad.

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