Malcolm X led an interesting life. Although his life was short, he went through many transformations. My paper examines the transformations of Malcolm X.
The Many Malcolm’s Malcolm X led an interesting life. Although his life was short, he went through many transformations. He evolved from a streetwise teenager, to a Muslim minister, and finally, a militant leader of thousands of people in the Nation of Islam. Certain events and people in his life effected those transformations.
His life displays how he became one of the most respected, feared, and motivating men in American history.Malcolm Little was born on May 19, 1925, in Omaha, Nebraska to Louise and Earl Little. The youngest of seven children he was favored by both parents. The only child who was allowed to go to work with his father was Malcolm.
His father frequently treated Malcolm specially because of his light skin and red hair. Even though Earl was a dark black man, his wife Louise could pass for a white woman. She was born in the British West Indies and passed on a large amount of her Caucasian traits to Malcolm. Earl was a Baptist minister and an avid supporter of Marcus Garvey.
He was also a member of the Universal Negro Empowerment Association. Since Earl was for black empowerment, the Little family was often in trouble with the Klu Klux Klan. After many attacks, Earl moved his family to Lansing, Michigan. While in Michigan, Earl annoyed the Black Legion – – an organization like the KKK except they wore black robes – – with his black empowerment speeches.
As a result, in 1929 their home was burned to the ground. In 1931, Earl Little’s body was found dead by a streetcar railway track. Although both incidents were ruled as accidents, it is believed that members of the Black Legion were responsible. Curtis 13-14) Louise Little never recovered from her husband’s death.
In 1937, she was sent to the State Mental Institute at Kalamazoo.As a result, her children were separated and sent to various foster homes and orphanages. (Myers 20) Malcolm lived in various foster homes and continued to do well in school. In junior high school, he was smart, focused, and graduated at the top oh his class.
One day, one of Malcolm’s teachers asked him what he wanted to do with his life. Malcolm told him he wanted to be a lawyer. His teacher replied: “Malcolm, one of life’s first needs is for us to be realistic.Don”t misunderstand me, now.
We all like you here, you know that. But you”ve got to be realistic about being a nigger. A lawyer- now that’s no realistic goal for a nigger. You need to think about something you can be-” (Haley 38) As a result of Malcolm’s teacher telling him he couldn”t be a lawyer, Malcolm lost interest in school and dropped out in the eighth grade.
After dropping out of school, Malcolm moved to Boston with his sister Ella. She only told Malcolm two things when he arrived: not to hang out in the ghetto and to lock the door when he left. In a way, Malcolm was left on his own.Of course Malcolm didn”t listen; he was often in the ghetto.
There was a pool hall in the ghetto that Malcolm frequented. At the pool hall, he met a guy named Shorty. Shorty and Malcolm became good friends. Malcolm became known throughout Boston as “Detroit Red” or “Red”.
Soon after that, Red started selling drugs and moved to Harlem, New York. While in Harlem he became involved in robbery, prostitution, and narcotics. Selling narcotics became his primary means of making money. After a while, Malcolm attracted too much attention from the police, which forced him to stop selling drugs.
Without a steady income Red turned to running scams. When one of his scams didn”t go as planned he had an altercation with another hustler. The hustler told Malcolm he was going to kill him. Malcolm ran back to Boston.
While in Boston, Malcolm formed his own robbing gang. The gang was comprised of him, Shorty, and two white girls. The white girls would stake out in a white neighborhood where they calculate the most inconspicuous time for a robbery to take place. Then Malcolm and Shorty would go and rob the house.
It was during this time that Red’s drug use was unremitting.On one occasion they got caught. In February of 1946 Malcolm was convicted and sentenced to prison for seven years for robbery. (Curtis 61) While in prison Malcolm’s brother Reginald visited and discussed this recent conversion to the Nation of Islam.
Intrigued, Malcolm did some research and began to study the teachings of Elijah Muhammad. Soon he began to correspond with Muhammad by mail. It was then that Malcolm realized that his handwriting was terrible and his vocabulary was limited. Malcolm began to copy the dictionary.
The results were his handwriting became better and his vocabulary increased.His conversion to Islam led Malcolm to immerse himself in the Koran and strict adherence to the Nation of Islam’s laws. While in prison he dropped his slave name, Little, and picked up the name “X”, meaning the unknown. In 1952, Malcolm was paroled from prison and moved to Detroit where his brother arranged for him to have a job and a place to stay.
(Curtis 69-76) The Malcolm that was placed behind bars in 1946 was not the same Malcolm who was released in 1952. He used his time to gain an education, quit using drugs, and find a constructive path to follow.This path was the Nation of Islam. Malcolm joined Detroit Temple Number One, and was very active in his place of worship.
Malcolm felt as thought there weren”t enough members at the temple and started a membership drive. Although the membership didn”t increase quickly, it did increase steadily. Malcolm had found his calling. He had to find a way to spend all of his time doing Muslim work.
Not long after that, Minister Hasson of the Detroit Temple asked Malcolm if he would address the congregation on the following Sunday; he readily agreed.As the months passed, Malcolm became a regular on Sunday’s. In the summer of 1953, he was appointed the Assistant Minister of Detroit Temple Number One (Curtis 83). People were fascinated by the light skinned black man who dared to preach that hating the white man was the proper thing to do.
“The white man is the devil; they are one and the same” he would say over and over again (Curtis 83). Eventually people would listen and the membership continued to grow. Realizing Malcolm’s great talent, Elijah Muhammad sent him to establish more temples.Malcolm set up temples in Springfield, Massachusetts; Hartford, Connecticut; and in Atlanta, Georgia.
Malcolm was so busy traveling all over the place he had very little personal time. On one of the Muslim activities” nights in 1958, Malcolm met a woman named Betty X. On one of his visits with Muhammad, Malcolm said that he wanted to get married. Since Malcolm and Muhammad had a father son relationship, Muhammad wanted to meet her.
When Muhammad did meet her, he said that he liked her and she would be good for him. Malcolm later called and asked Betty if she wanted to get married.Betty flew to Lansing, Michigan, and the two were married on January 15, 1958, in front of Malcolm’s family. For all practical reasons, Muhammad named Malcolm the national spokesperson for the Nation of Islam.
Soon Malcolm was being asked to speak here, do a radio or television interview there, or write a column for a magazine. Malcolm also wrote a weekly column for The Amsterdam News. When he realized how widespread his readership was, he founded his own newspaper just like Marcus Garvey. Muhammad Speaks became the official publication of the Muslim movement.
Whenever a major event happened Malcolm was the first person the reporters came to, to get an opinion. Malcolm had become a national figure and was one of the most controversial figures in the country. (Myers 96-97) Things got bad between Malcolm and the Nation of Islam when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
There was a press conference on December 4, 1963, and Malcolm was asked his opinion on the president’s assassination, and he gave it. Malcolm replied “it seems to me that it is a case of chickens coming home to roost,” and the audience laughed and cheered.He continued with, “being an old farm boy myself, chickens coming home to roost never did make me sad; they always made me glad. ” (Curtis 124-125) Within a couple of days Malcolm was summonsed to come to Muhammad.
His life would never be the same. When Malcolm arrived in Arizona to see Muhammad, he knew something was wrong. The greeting he received was abnormal. When Malcolm got the chance to talk to Muhammad; he told Malcolm what he said about the president was wrong and could not be tolerated.
He also said that he was silenced and could not speak for ninety days.Malcolm was to have no contact with the media, which included writers, reporters, nor to teach the mosque. Muhammad never officially announced that Malcolm was being thrown out of the movement. However, a column in Muhammad Speaks said only those who wish to be led to hell, or to their doom will follow Malcolm.
The day is set and Malcolm shall not escape. It was very clear, Malcolm X was to be destroyed. Malcolm wanted to start an organization that would carry into practice what the Nation of Islam only preached.In March of 1964, Malcolm founded Muslim Mosque Inc.
Muslim Mosque Inc. , was to be a working base for an action program designed to eliminate the political persecution, the economic exploitation and the social evils suffered daily by African Americans. Before Malcolm could officially get Muslim Mosque Inc off the ground there was one thing that he had to do, make a pilgrimage to Mecca just as every Muslim should. On May 21, 1964, Malcolm X left for his trip to Mecca.
(Curtis 196) When he returned he was not the same person. His views had changed.Malcolm not only saw the possibility of brotherhood among people of various races but came away with a deeper understanding of his people’s struggle as part of a struggle for human rights and justice world-wide. He had become El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz.
Returning to the United State, Malcolm had a broader understanding and a commitment to incorporating it into the struggle of his people. That understanding and commitment led him to found a new organization, the Organization of Afro-American Unity, patterned after the Organization of African Unity. (Curtis 131)Relations between Malcolm and the Nation of Islam continued to deteriorate after he renounced Elijah Muhammad. Malcolm was quick to openly challenge the teachings of his former mentor.
Consequently, the Nation of Islam spokespeople engaged in increasingly heated denunciations of him. Among the most heated denunciation was an article in Muhammad Speaks, that labeled Malcolm a heretic, the harshest denunciation applicable to any black man. (People Link Incorporated) After repeated attempts on his life Malcolm refused to travel anywhere without bodyguards.On February 14, 1965, the home where Malcolm, Betty, and their four daughters lived in East Elmhurst, New York, was firebombed.
(Myers 167) The day after the bombing, the OAAU was to have publicly presented its program, a visionary document that traces of the history and roots of racism and lays out concrete proposals to black empowerment and self-determination. Due to the firebomb attack, that presentation was postponed for a week. Malcolm used the occasion to comment on the attacks on him and his family and their political significance.The following week was a hectic.
Malcolm and Betty began looking for a new home while he was giving interviews, writing letters and giving speeches. Most importantly Malcolm was preparing for the presentation of the OAAU program on February 21, 1965, at Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom. His presentation was never made. As he began his remarks that day, three gunmen rushed to the stage and shot him fifteen times at close range.
At the age of 39, Malcolm X was pronounced dead on arrival at New York’s Presbyterian Hospital. (People Link Incorporated)Malcolm made many transformations during his lifetime. He went from being Malcolm Little, to Detroit Red, to Malcolm X, to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. In a way Malcolm was a product of his environment.
He grew up without the influence of his father and his years in Detroit, as Detroit Red reflect that, he was lost looking for a place to fit in. While Malcolm was in prison his brother encouraged him to join the Nation of Islam. Through the Nation of Islam Malcolm found himself. Detroit Red became Malcolm X.
As part of the Nation of Islam Malcolm became a minister.Through the years Malcolm’s views started to differ from the Nation of Islam’s. When the incident with John Kennedy came about Malcolm was thrown out of the movement. As a result, Malcolm revaluated his life and took his hajji to Mecca.
While in Mecca, Malcolm X became to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. Shabazz’s views were an extension of Malcolm X’s. Shabazz was in the process of starting the OOAAU. Unfortunately, his life was abruptly cut short with an assassination.
Many people only know of Malcolm X through the Nation of Islam. They have no idea of the transformations he went through to get there.