To his admirers, he was a courageous advocate for the rights of African Americans, a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its crimes against black Americans. His detractors accused him of preaching racism, black supremacy, antisemitism, and violence.
He suffered intense white animosity while growing up. During the 40’s he lived in Harlem, and became involved in drug dealing, gambling, racketeering, robbery, and prostitution. He later recalled that he put on a display to avoid the draft by telling the examining officer that he could not wait to “steal us some guns, and kill us [some] crackers.”
During a prison term he became a member of the Nation of Islam.
From his adoption of the Nation of Islam in 1952 until he left the organization in 1964, Malcolm X promoted the Nation’s teachings. He taught that black people were the original people of the world, and that white people were a race of devils. In his speeches, Malcolm X said that black people were superior to white people, and that the demise of the white race was imminent.
While the civil rights movement fought against racial segregation, Malcolm X advocated the complete separation of African Americans from white people. He proposed the establishment of a separate country for black people as an interim measure until African Americans could return to Africa. Malcolm X also rejected the civil rights movement’s strategy of nonviolence and instead advocated that black people use any necessary means of self-defense to protect themselves
Malcom left the Nation of Islam in 1964 after its leader, Elijah Muhammad, was found to be committing adultery with several women.
He was assassinated in 1965 by reputed members of the Nation of Islam. Some have accused Louis Farrakhan of being involved in the plot. In a 1993 speech, Louis Farrakhan seemed to boast of the assassination…”Was Malcolm your traitor or ours? And if we dealt with him like a nation deals with a traitor, what the hell business is it of yours? A nation has to be able to deal with traitors and cutthroats and turncoats.”
In a famous letter from Mecca, he wrote that the white people he met during his pilgrimage forced him to “rearrange” his thinking about race and “toss aside some of [his] previous conclusions.” Two days before his assassination, Malcolm said, “Listening to leaders like Nasser, Ben Bella, and Nkrumah awakened me to the dangers of racism. I realized racism isn’t just a black and white problem. It’s brought bloodbaths to about every nation on earth at one time or another.”
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