Assassination of Malcolm X


Malcolm Little was born in Omaha, Nebraska on May 19, 1925. By age 13 his father had died and his mother was in a mental institution, which meant that he spent the next few years living in a series of foster homes. In 1941 he moved to Boston to live with his half-sister, Ella Little Collins. He held various jobs for some time, but moved on to burglary as a steady source of income. In 1946 he was caught pawning a watch and was charged with larceny and breaking and entering, receiving a sentence of eight to ten years in Massachusetts State Prison. Encounters with other inmates, particularly John Elton Bembry, who was called Bimbi in the Autobiography of Malcolm X, pushed him to educate himself. He began reading voraciously. In prison, he converted to Islam–his brother was already a member of the Nation of Islam, which was enmeshed in the black nationalist movement–and changed his name to Malcolm X. Once he was released, he worked his way up through the organization becoming a minister and a national spokesperson. Malcolm became a ubiquitous figure in the media, and used radio and television to spread the Nation of Islam’s message. He greatly increased their membership: in 1952 they had 500 members, by 1963 they had 25,000. In 1964 he decided to break his ties with Nation of Islam and converted to Sunni Islam. Soon after he made a pilgrimage to Mecca. He would later say that seeing Muslims of different races interacting and worshiping together as equals changed his mind and made him disavow racism. In 1965, on this day he was assassinated in New York.

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