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Malcolm X is considered one of the greatest civil rights activists in history. He was known for his somewhat violent message of blacks defending themselves. Despite his original message, he eventually became more peaceful toward whites. However, as his legacy was just beginning to change things for the good, he was abruptly killed by gunmen. Due to his indecisiveness and early death, Malcolm X had a great, yet inadequate impact on the civil rights movement. Malcolm little was born on May 19, 1925, in Omaha, Nebraska, the son of Louise and Earl Little.
In 1929 their house was firebombed by racists while the whole Little family was in the house. It was night and all of them were sleeping. Probably these racists were Ku-Klux-Klan members. The incoming police and firemen didnt even try to save the house and all of them watched the house burning down. After all that the police arrested Earl Little on suspicion of arson and for carrying a revolver without permit. Earl and Louise Little were followers of Marcus Garvey.
He fought for racial separation and more power for blacks. Therefore he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), the largest black movement to date. At no point in his life could Malcolm cease struggling (Frady 3). Malcolm was very systematic and disciplined with tasks he enjoyed doing even at an early age (Roedmeir 2).
However, he began to have troubles in school. He knew there were things he couldnt do because he was black. This brought him to the streets. Later on, Malcolm was sent to prison. In prison he learned of the Islamic religion and studied the teachings of Elijah Muhammad. Malcolm was released from prison in 1952.
He never forgave society for what had happened to him (Frady 3). Malcolm was formally accepted into the nation of Islam and received his X (Davies 56). The X replaced Little, the name his white slave masters had given his ancestors (Davies 56). Malcolm later became suspicious when he discovered Muhammad having children with several black women who he didnt take care of (Boese 4). On March 8, 1964, Malcolm X announced his break with the Nation of Islam (Time-Life Books 231). A pilgrimage to Mecca had softened his views and caused him to change his name to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz.
Pilgrims from all races prayed together peacefully, from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans (Boese 5). Malcolm had learned that all white people were not racist. Malcolm formed his own Islamic community, the Muslim Mosque, Inc (Time-Life Books 231). He attracted national attention. With rumors and death threats flying, Malcolm X began keeping a loaded gun for self-defense (Myers 170). Although he kept it from his daughters, Malcolm would not harm my family (Corey 3).
Initially, he asked his wife not to attend his speech at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem on February 21, 1965 (Corey 3). A week before Malcolm was killed, his house was firebombed. Malcolm was killed during that speech in Harlem. Malcolm thought that no matter what the odds were against them, blacks wanted freedom. There can never be any question about Malcolm's courage or sincerity (Margolies 170). It is a controversial question whether Malcolm was a product of the vest unrest that was brewing within many blacks, or only using the despair for his won personal advantage.
On some occasions, Malcolm would contradict himself several times within the same speech (Margolies 151). Malcolm was often bigoted, ignorant, and misinformed, yet he possessed the malleability to grow and learn (Margolies 172). Malcolm had very positive views that helped the civil rights movement. Malcolm talked about African Americans and the need to un brainwash an entire people (Davies 103). Malcolm said, Anytime you live in a society supposedly based upon law and it doesnt enforce its own law because of racism, then people are justified to resort to any means necessary to bring about justice.
He also stressed how important education was. He thought, Education was means to help black people rediscover their identity and thereby increase their self-respect (Davies 103). Malcolm's greatest message as a teacher was that Negroes must acquire a sense of dignity, a sense of personal pride and value in their identity (Margolies 158). Along with positive messages, there were also negative ones. Just three days before his death, he confessed to a reporter, Im man enough to tell you that I cant put my finger on exactly what my philosophy is now (Frady 3). Malcolm's view seemed a vision of humankind's nature reduced to the basest, most minimal terms of anger and retribution for abuse (Frady 1).
Its doubtful whether Malcolm would have come so quickly to the attention of the white public were it not for the fiery message of violence he preached (Margolies 165). Malcolm and the Muslims believed that to integrate would destroy the black race (Davies 71). Unfortunately, whites that were willing to help blacks were not wanted by Malcolm X. He encouraged whites to form groups to work among other whites to combat prejudice (Ebony 82). Malcolm felt that if the government was not able or willing to protect African Americans, they should take up arms and protect themselves (Davies 103). Malcolm saw integration as the white mans way of rewarding a few black men in return for the peace-keeping and status-quo-preserving services of the integrated blacks (Ebony 81).
Malcolm's message of separation from whites was very disturbing to black leaders from the broad middle class, who were in the forefront of the civil rights movement (Myers 106). Martin Luther King said that civil rights activists would be victorious through their ability to suffer. In Malcolm's opinion, black people suffered long enough (Boese 4). Because of difference of opinion, there was a difficult relationship existing between Malcolm and Martin. The irony is that Malcolm was killed just as he began to move away from his original, more negative views. Different groups had mixed views on Malcolm.
Malcolm called himself flexible and his views did shift from time to time (Margolies 149). He shouted the painful truth that blacks and whites did not want to hear (Haley 498). Malcolm's robust leadership was causing a faster growth within the Nation of Islam than the structure could handle (Myers 104). There was great conflict within the Nation and Malcolm. This conflict was why Malcolm often contradicted himself. Elijah Muhammad, although sometimes troubled by Malcolm's statements and his impatience, recognized Malcolm's enormous gifts and tolerated differences (Myers 18).
Muhammad did not like all the media that Malcolm was in. Most black Muslims felt like Malcolm was doing a good job (Boese 4). However, they wanted Malcolm out (Davies 87). Whites were offended by his statements. Malcolm demonized them as blue-eyed white devils (Frady 1). Many whites, and some black believed that Malcolm, was only spreading more hate (Davies 103).
It was usually his more violent, racist comments that made the headlines. Many people thought of Malcolm as a racist in reverse (Boese 4). Whites that were sincere to the civil rights movement were offended that Malcolm said that there was nothing that they could do to help the cause (Ebony 81). Malcolm brought about many changes to the civil rights movement.
Past changes included the march on Washington where over a quarter of a million people from all over the country traveled to Washington DC (Myers 131). President Kennedy first tried to stop the march, but then, once he saw that blacks were actually organizing it, encouraged the march under the nonviolent leadership supported by the administration (Myers 130). In the early 1960 s, he advocated Black Nationalism (Roedmeir 2). Even the recent Million Man March was similar to the early marches during Malcolm's time.
Presently, it can sometimes appear that Malcolm's flat, blank anger has carried the day and not merely in a certain style of attitude, as evidenced by the swagger and bluster of many rap artists (Frady 1). But for the most part, racism had lessened slightly and civil rights have greatly improved. In the future, this can only increase as people learn to unite and accept others ideas. Hopefully, civil rights leaders like Malcolm X wont be needed anymore. Until then, people must make change and be leaders as was Malcolm, but keep in mind some of his more positive methods and stay away from the negative ones.
As for Malcolm himself, his few achievements perhaps could have been greater had his life not been but short by his assassination as well as his time in jail. The powerful message he gave set small precedents for future leaders. As long as the issue of civil rights is apparent, Malcolm will always be remembered for his devotion to the cause by any means necessary. Bibliography: Work cited Boese, Alexander.
Malcolm X a documentation by Alexander Boese. 3 Jan. 2000... Bone, Robert. Up From Thuggery: September 11, 1966: The Autobiography of Malcolm X. The New York Times Book Review 6 June 1996, 91. Boyd, Herb. 30 Years Illumines the Depth of Malcolm's Thoughts. New York Amsterdam News 21 May 1998: 11.
MASTERFILE Premier. EBSCOhost. YSHS. 21 Dec. 1999. Corey, Mary. The Content of their Character: Following the Light.
Baltimore Sun 29 Mar. 1998. Reprinted in SIRS. Enduring Issues: Human Relations, 1999, Art. 24 Davies, Mark. Malcolm X: Another Side of the Movement. New York Scholastic, 1993. Ebony.
Pictorial History of Black America. Volume Three: Civil Right Movement Revolution. Johnson Publishing Co. , 1974. Frady, Marshall. The Children of Malcolm. The New Yorker 10 Oct. 1992: 64 - 81.
Haley, Alex. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Ballantine Books, 1965. Margolies, Edward. Native Sons.
Third Printing, 1968. Myers, Walter Dean. Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary. New York Scholastic, 1993. Roedmeir, Chad.
Rethinking Malcolm X. Black Issues in Higher Education 14 Oct. 1999: 44 - 46. MASTERFILE Premier. EBSCOhost. YSHS. 20 Dec, 1999. Time-Life Books.
African Americans: Voices of Triumph. Leadership. Alexandria Time-Life Books, 1993.
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