Born as Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska, on May 19, 1925, Malcolm X, was one of the most charismatic figures during the civil rights movement. Growing up in a modest home, Malcolm and his sisters were shuffled to various foster homes after losing his father at the age of six and having to part ways with their mother after she was placed in a mental hospital as a result of suffering a breakdown.
A junior school dropout despite being an excellent student, Malcolm headed to Boston at the age of 14 to live with his half-sister. After working odd jobs for several years, he moved to New York in 1943 and became entrenched in the crime scene in Harlem’s bustling borough. In 1946, Malcolm was arrested in Boston for attempting to steal a watch and was given an eight- to-10-year sentence.
Prison was a transformational moment for the future leader, and his meeting with fellow inmate, John Bembry, instilled in him a love for reading. At the same time, Malcolm’s siblings began to write him about a burgeoning religious group known as the Nation of Islam (NOI), which preached a brand of Black pride not unfamiliar to him but that he largely shunned. It wasn’t until his brother, Reginald, began to tell him how the NOI’s teaching could liberate him did he begin to tune in.
Corresponding with NOI leader the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X chose the “X” surname as many Black Muslims did to signify the eradication of their “slave name” or given family last name. From there, Malcolm X’s rise in the NOI was imminent.
With a fearless bent and articulate wit, Malcolm X challenged the power structure with unwavering confidence coupled with the fiery rhetoric of Black revolution, becoming a galvanizing force in Black America.
As a result of ideological differences between Malcolm and Muhammad which later escalated, the former left the NOI in 1964. He later changed his name to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz after making his pilgrimage to Mecca. Founding the Organization of Afro-American Unity, El-Shabazz would expand his social and political circles by working with a wider group of Pan-African advocates and civil rights leaders.
On February 21, 1965, El-Shabazz was speaking at an Organization of Afro-American Unity at Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom when he was assassinated. He was 39.
To mark the birthday of this iconic civil rights activist and Black nationalist, Face2Face Africa shares with you 10 of his greatest quotes.