The name “Malcolm X” still stirs emotions of fear and hatred in many Americans. When he was murdered in the Ballroom in Harlem on February 21, 1965, he was world-famous as “the angriest black man in America. ” This is true because unlike Martin Luther King Jr. , Malcolm X advocated freedom for blacks “by any means necessary. ” For him, even the use of violence was a viable solution to fight racial discrimination. Because of such views some people still associate Malcolm X with the Black Panther movement of the sixties which they believe was a radical and violent organization.
But portraying Malcolm X simply as a violent black activist fails to represent the whole picture. It does not take into account the post-Mecca Malcolm X when he recanted his black separatism message and started to support unity among all people. When we review Malcolm X’s life from his birth to his tragic death, then we will find a courageous leader who was able to do the following: First, he was able to turn his own personal life around. From a common criminal he became a leader of his people. Second, he was able to persuade others to what he believed in. In other words, he was a man full of charisma.
Third, he was able to admit his mistakes and correct them even if meant losing his status and life. He fought for what he believed in which was justice, and he was not afraid to reverse his ideas when he found them erroneous. First of all, Malcolm X was able to turn his own personal life around. He turned all his beliefs and ways of life upside down when joining the “Nation of Islam. ” Before joining the nation of Islam, he was a hustler who tried to earn enough money for his excessive life style. He was selfish and lost all his conscience. He did not fear any other people or death and used every kind of drugs.
Although he hated the whites, he felt inferior and wanted to be like them. Because of this he straightened his hair and had a white girlfriend. He lived a life of crime, forming his own house robbing gang. He was arrested for robbery in February 1946, and sentenced to prison for seven years. When he was in prison, he had a prejudice against the Christian religion that he thought was a tool of the white society to keep the Negroes down. This led him to the perception that there must be a religion for the black people. His rebellious nature was not formed without any cause.
He had reasons to his rebellious nature. The rebellious nature in Malcolm X has its beginning in the violent death of his father at the hands of white bigots. Malcolm X was born on May 19, 1925, in Omaha, Nebraska to Louise and Earl Little. Earl was a Baptist minister from Reynold, Ga. and became an organizer for Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association, which wanted all Afro-Americans to go back to the land of their ancestors, Africa. Because of the father’s advocacy for Garvey movement, Malcolm’s family was terrorized by the Ku Klux Klan which was an organization of white racists.
In September 1931, the white racists of Lansing killed Malcolm’s father and laid him on a railway track, claiming he committed suicide. This was not the end of the tragedies of his life, just the beginning. In the years that followed, Malcolm’s mother, Louise, deteriorated emotionally and mentally and in 1939, was committed to a mental institution in Kalamanzoo, Michigan by the white authorities. Malcolm had been removed from his mother and went to school in Mason, Michigan, living with different families.
Malcolm did well in Mason and graduated from junior high school at the top of his class academically and athletically, but he was discouraged from continuing academically past the eighth grade due to his race. His whole childhood was miserable. His family, his desire for education, and his hope for the future were destroyed by the whites. And this can do more than explain why he became a troublemaker and a hustler during his young adulthood. Despite all these disadvantages and his previous criminal life, Malcolm became a follower of Elijah Muhammad, the leader of a small black cult, the Nation of Islam, while in prison.
After joining the Nation of Islam, he stopped drinking, smoking and abusing drugs instantly and dedicated his life to his leader. He also discarded his “slave name,” Little, and took the new name “X”. Malcolm said, “my “X” replaced the slave-master’s name of “Little” which some blue-eyed devil named Little had imposed upon my paternal forebears. ” He also improved his lack of knowledge by reading encyclopaedias and read plenty of books as well as the Koran and followed the strict the Nation of Islam”s dietary laws and moral codes.
Usually, common criminals can be very easily influenced to becoming even a bigger criminal, because they cannot control themselves and it is very hard to get out of all the temptation of things in the world. Not only Malcolm did not become a bigger criminal, but he also overcame his adversities by stopping all the worldly things from his previous life and committing his life to be a leader. This shows that he was a man of courage who could control himself from the temptation in the world. Secondly, Malcolm X was able to persuade others to what he believed in.
One of the main characteristics that a leader should have is convincing others to what one believes in. Malcolm X certainly had this ability to convince others. He was a great orator. He had lots of charisma. Malcolm X’s vision was expressed in speeches, newspaper columns as well as radio and television interviews. In addition, he helped in establishing the Black Muslim newspaper, Muhammad Speaks. Minister Malcolm X was said to be the only Negro who could stop a race riot –or start one. His speeches were powerful and he influenced and persuaded lots of blacks to be the member of the nation of Islam.
Showing his ability to convince others, the membership reached approximately 30,000 by 1963. Malcolm X was very outspoken. He was never afraid to speak to the public about what he believed in even if it was dangerous to do so. Especially during the sixties, it was very dangerous for the blacks to speak unpleasant things about the whites. Although the American society was out of slavery, the social atmosphere was negative for blacks and the whites were very abusive to the blacks physically and mentally. Regardless of perilous surroundings, Malcolm X made lots of shocking statements in his speeches.
Those statements aroused the blacks and encouraged them to think and recognize how discriminated their lives were. He gathered huge crowds of black people and convinced them in eloquent speeches that all whites were evil. Although this statement was wrong, Malcolm needed to shock the black people so that they will rebel against the oppressive society. Because of his charisma and persuasive way of speeches, the Nation of Islam became a nation-wide movement and a threat to the White society in an astonishingly short time.
Malcolm X said, “the white man is the devil” and he convinced other black people to fight racial discrimination even with the use of violence. Once he even commented on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy with the phrase “chickens come home to roost,” and “silenced” for 90 days by Elijah Muhammad. Finally, Malcolm X was able to admit his mistakes and correct them even if it meant losing his status and life. Malcolm X was always ready to revise his ideas and change them if he found that they were wrong.
Especially in the fields of politics and religion, both of which he was working in, people usually never change their beliefs and policies, even if they are proved to be wrong. But Malcolm X was different. Malcolm knew that if he stayed in the nation of Islam, even though he found that it was wrong, he could be a powerful man and also could maintain the high and secure position in the nation of Islam. But he altered his belief when Elijah Muhammad dismissed him. Malcolm fell apart from the Nation of Islam. He was deeply hurt, but he did not give up, and he established his own movement and made a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1964.
A pilgrimage to Mecca is obligatory for orthodox Muslims, and there he began to consider changing his views towards integration. In Mecca, he saw that it was possible for black and white people to live in brotherhood, of which he was deeply touched. After the pilgrimage he adopted the name El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. This trip changed his points of view profoundly. He became less militant and even admitted that sometimes white people can help the black movement. He also got rid of Mr. Muhammad’s doctrines and taught the real Islam he experienced in the East. When he heard of the Black Muslim’s plot to kill him, he did not feel any fear.
He just wanted his family to be safe. His home in Queens, New York, which Malcolm X shared with his wife and his six children was firebombed in early February 1965, but the family survived. Even with the death threats and the bombing of house, the Black Muslims could not stop him. When Malcolm X was delivering a speech in the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem on February 21, 1965, he was assassinated by the Black Muslims. Before he died, he declared that he would be glad if he could have helped the black people, but that all credit is due to Allah. Only the mistakes were his. Malcolm X showed us that where one comes from is not important.
What is important is where one is heading. He started his young adulthood as a common criminal and also was once associated as a hatemonger. But after his pilgrimage to Mecca, he began preaching the message of unity among all people. In February 1965, he was assassinated while preaching this message of unity. Anybody can make mistakes, in fact, we improve as a person by learning from our mistakes. But accepting that our ideas and actions were mistakes and learning from them is very hard processes. Sometimes during those processes, we do not accept that we are wrong or we just give up.
But Malcolm X learned from his mistakes and towards the end of his life became a man of peace who was willing to lay down his life for his cause. All in all, Malcolm X was a courageous leader who was able to turn his own personal life, able to persuade others to what he believed in, and able to admit his mistakes and correct them even if meant losing his status and life. He fought for what he believed in which was justice. He also influenced others to fight for their rights. Furthermore, he was ready to revise his ideas if he found them wrong and change them and learn from those mistakes.
The leader of the Black Muslim movement was the self-nominated Messenger of Allah, Elijah Muhammad. But the man who made the radical group popular was his minister Malcolm X. The phenomenon that was Malcolm X became one of the most popular Afro-American leaders in a short time. Although he was dismissed by his leader Muhammad, his popularity did not diminish. When he was assassinated by the Black Muslims in 1965, newspapers all over the world paid tribute to him as a great Negro leader. Malcolm X certainly was a great leader who influenced lots of black peoples’ lives.
Not only did he influence the blacks of his generation, but also the future generations. His influence is still felt in our time. Thousands of black people all over the world could be seen wearing black baseball caps with a big white X on it, meaning that black Afro-Americans, who had lost their original surnames, were no longer willing to bear their former slave-master’s name. The name Malcolm X should not be remembered as the a violent black activist, but as one of the most greatest Negro leaders in American history who was virtuous and who influenced lots of black people to fight for human rights.