The story about Malcolm X

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Some fast fact about Malcolm, so it will be easier to understand who he was and what he did:
Malcolm X Little, later El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz 1925-1965, was a leading figure in the 20th-century movement for black liberation in the United States, and arguably its most enduring symbol. Malcolm X has been called many things: Pan-Africanist, father of Black Power, religious fanatic, closet conservative, incipient socialist, and a menace to society. The meaning of his public life and his politics and ideology, is contested in part because his entire body of work consists of a few dozen speeches and a lot of autobiography whose veracity is often challenged. Malcolm got gunned down three months before his 40th birthday, Malcolm X´s life was cut short just when his thinking had reached a critical point.

Malcolm X´s life is a story worth mention. Malcolm X story is a very strong one about self-transformation from insignificant hustler to a internationally known political leader. Malcolm X was born in Omaha, Nebraska, he was the son of Louise and Earl Little, who was a Baptist preacher and active in Marcus Garvey´s Universal Negro Improvement Association, Malcolm X, along with his brothers and sisters, experienced dramatic confrontations with racism from the childhood. Hooded Klansmen burned their home in Lansing, Michigan, Earl Little was killed under mysterious circumstances, welfare agencies split up the children and eventually committed Louise Little to a state mental institution, and Malcolm X was forced to live in a detention home run by a racist white couple. By the eighth grade he left school, moved to Boston, Massachusetts, to live with his half-sister Ella, and discovered the underground world of the African Americans.
Malcolm X´s entry into the masculine culture began with a suit, and "conked" (straightened) hair. After the outbreak of ww2 a rising black militancy came along. Randolph´s threatened to March in Washington for racial and economic justice, and outbreaks of race riots in Detroit, Michigan, and other cities in 1943. Malcolm X and his partners did not seem very "political" at the time, but they kept away so they missed the draft so as they would not lose their lives over a "white man´s war," and they avoided wage work whenever possible. His search for leisure and pleasure took him to Harlem, New York, where his primary source of income derived from insignificant hustling, drug dealing, pimping, gambling, and viciously exploiting women. In 1946 his luck ran out, he was arrested for burglary and sentenced to ten years in prison.

Malcolm X´s downward descent took a U-turn in prison when he began
studying the teachings of the Lost-Found Nation of Islam (NOI), the black Muslim group founded by Wallace D. created and led by Elijah Muhammad (Elijah Poole). Submitting to the discipline and guidance of the NOI, he became a voracious reader of the Qu´ran (Koran) and the Bible. He also immersed himself in works of literature and history at the prison library. Behind prison walls he quickly emerged as a powerful speaker and brilliant rhetorician. He led the famous prison debating team that beat the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, arguing against capital punishment by pointing out that English pickpockets often did their best work at public hangings!

Upon his release in 1952 he renamed himself Malcolm X, symbolically since he thought that it was a slave name and "white man´s name." As a devoted follower of Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X rose quickly within the NOI ranks, serving as minister of Harlem´s Temple No. 7 in 1954, and later ministering to temples in Detroit and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Through national speaking engagements, television appearances, and by establishing Muhammad Speaks—the NOI´s first nationally distributed newspaper, Malcolm X put the Nation of Islam on the map. His sharp criticisms of civil rights leaders for advocating integration into white society instead of building black institutions and defending themselves from racist violence generated opposition from both conservatives and liberals. His opponents called him "violent," "fascist," and "racist." To those who claimed that the NOI undermined their efforts toward integration by preaching racial separatism, what Malcolm X responded is my favourite quote, "It is not integration that Negroes in America want, it is human dignity."

Distinguishing Malcolm X´s early political and intellectual views from the teachings of Elijah Muhammad is not a simple matter. His role as minister was to preach the gospel of Islam according to Muhammad. He remained a devoted follower of the Nation´s strict moral codes and gender conventions. Although his own narrative suggests that he never entirely discarded his hustler´s distrust of women, he married Betty Sanders (later Betty Shabazz) in 1958 and lived by NOI rules: men must lead, women must follow, the man´s domain is the world, the woman´s is the home.
On other issues, however, Malcolm X showed signs of independence from the NOI line. During the mid-1950s, for example, he privately scoffed at Muhammad´s interpretation of the genesis of the "white race" and seemed uncomfortable with the idea that all white people were literally devils. He was always careful to preface his remarks with "The honorable Elijah Muhammad teaches. . . ." More significantly, Malcolm X clearly disagreed with the NOI´s policy of not participating in politics. He not only believed that political mobilization was indispensable but occasionally defied the rule by supporting boycotts and other forms of protest. In 1962, before he split with the NOI, Malcolm X shared the podium with black, white, and Puerto Rican labor organizers in the left-wing, multiracial hospital workers´ union in New York.

He also began developing an independent Pan-Africanist and, in some respects, "Third World" political perspective during the 1950s, when ant colonial wars and decolonization were pressing public issues. As early as 1954 Malcolm X gave a speech comparing the situation in Vietnam with that of the Mau Mau Rebellion in colonial Kenya, framing both of these movements as uprisings of the "darker races" creating a "tidal wave" against U.S. and European imperialism. Indeed, Africa remained his primary political interest outside of black America. He toured Egypt, Sudan, Nigeria, and Ghana in 1959, well before his famous trip to Africa and the Middle East in 1964.

Although Malcolm X tried to conceal his differences with Elijah Muhammad, tensions between them erupted. The tensions were exacerbated by the threat Malcolm X´s popularity posed to Muhammad´s leadership and by Malcolm X´s disillusionment with Elijah upon learning that the NOI´s moral and spiritual leader had fathered children by former secretaries. The tensions became publicly visible when Muhammad silenced Malcolm X for remarking after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy that it was a case of the "chickens coming home to roost." Malcolm X´s point was that the federal government´s inaction toward racist violence in the South had come back to strike the president. When Malcolm X learned that Muhammad had planned to have him assassinated, he decided to leave the NOI.

On March 8, 1964, he announced his resignation and formed the Muslim Mosque, Inc., an Islamic movement devoted to working in the political sphere and cooperating with civil rights leaders. That same year he made his first pilgrimage to Mecca and took a second tour of several African and Arab nations. The trip was apparently transformative. Upon his return he renamed himself El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, adopted from Sunni Islam, and announced that he had found the "true brotherhood" of man. He publicly acknowledged that whites were no longer devils, though he still remained a Black Nationalist and faithful believer in black self-determination and self-organization.

During the summer of 1964 he formed the Organization of Afro-American
Unity (OAAU). Inspired by the Organization of African Unity (OAU) made up of independent African states, the OAAU´s program combined advocacy for independent black institutions for example schools and cultural centers with support for black participation in mainstream politics, including electoral campaigns. Following the example of Paul Robeson and W. E. B. Du Bois, Malcolm X planned in 1965 to submit to the United Nations a petition that documented human rights violations and acts of genocide against African Americans.

Although Malcolm X left no real institutional legacy, he did exert a notable impact on the Civil Rights Movement in the last year of his life. Black activists in the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) who had heard him speak to organizers in Selma, Alabama, in February 1965, began to support some of his ideas, especially on armed self-defence, racial pride, and the creation of black-run institutions. He also gained a small following of radical Marxists, mostly Trotskyists (a form of communist) in the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). Malcolm X convinced some SWP members of the revolutionary potential of ordinary black ghetto person, and he began to speak more critically of capitalism.

Was Malcolm X about to become a civil rights leader? Could he have launched a successful Pan-Africanist movement? Was he turning toward Marxism? Scholars and activist have debated these issues, but no firm answers are yet possible. Supporters administer first aid to Malcolm X as he lies on the floor of the Audubon Ballroom in New York City, where he was shot as he began a speech in February 1965.

Ironically, Malcolm X made a bigger impact on black politics ...

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  • Inactive member 2005-06-30

    Good neutral biographie of Mal

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Inactive member [2005-06-29]   The story about Malcolm X
Mimers Brunn [Online]. https://mimersbrunn.se/article?id=4533 [2019-10-15]

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