A gangster, a revolutionary, a visionary are probably the phrases that come up the most when the name Malcolm X comes across your mind. He is not only one of the most influential African-Americans politicians in the world but also a powerful symbol in the following decades.
A man whose presence could be as important as Muhammad Ali, the legendary black athlete, or Tupac, the great inspiration of today's rap game. But who is he after all? And why is his thought of great spiritual value and influential to the African-American community?
El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, also known as Malcolm Little, was born on May 19, 1925. His parents, Earl and Louise Little were both active in Marcus Garvey's Pan-African movement.
Malcolm's family is always being watched and threatened by the KKK (Ku Klux Klan). They burned down Malcolm's house when he was only four years old. When he was 6 years old, Malcolm's father was killed in "a traffic accident", while his mother believed that his father was executed by the Black Legion. At the age of 13, after many unfortunate events, his mother was put in a mental institution, resulting in her children being divided and adopted in different homes.
Malcolm has always been an outstanding student at school. But after being told by a white teacher, "A black boy's dream to be a lawyer is unrealistic", young Malcolm dropped out not long after that. He then moved to Harlem at the age of 18 and was dragged into the social evils there such as gambling, theft, drugs, etc. After a series of disruptive gang incidents in Boston, at the age of 21, Malcolm was arrested and sent to Charlestown prison with a sentence of 8-10 years.
His time in prison was a turning point in Malcolm's life. During the rehabilitation process, he began to read books and became acquainted with the Nation of Islam, a political organization that fought for the rights of black people against the injustice of white people. Impressed with the ideals, Malcolm became a member of that organization.
And from there, Malcolm also changed his surname Little to an X because he learned that Little was the last name of white slave owners in the past.
After becoming a core member at NOI, Malcolm X had written for many publications before founding NOI's newspaper, Muhammad Speaks. Malcolm's tough ideology was admired and followed by millions of people of color around the world.
After leaving NOI in 1961 due to many personal conflicts, Malcolm's political and ethnic thinking has changed in a positive direction. He became more attuned to Martin Luther King, a man he had once criticized.
Before he was assassinated by being shot 21 times in 1965, he met many influential people such as former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser, Algeria's first president, Ahmed Ben Bella, and even the first president of Cuba, .
2. Malcolm X's contributions to African American History
Malcolm is considered a leader for the black equal rights movement in America. Malcolm's bold and assertive statements have been noticed more than ever by everyone, through the power of the press and media all over the world.
Malcolm X's radical statements about the primacy of Blacks and his refusal to adopt nonviolent strategies stirred intense interest in the world's public opinion on the issue of racism.
In May 1964, Malcolm X began founding African American Unity (OAAU), a secular organization advocating human rights for all people of African descent. During this time, instead of being anti-white, Malcolm has accepted the proliferation of pacifist whites who advocated for racial equality.
It can be said that throughout his life, the greatest success that Malcolm has created is to promote a completely equal voice for the black community in America. His ideas laid the foundation for the strong rise of black people in America, the premise for later mainstream equality movements.
3. Influence of Malcolm X in Black culture
Despite his passing away more than half a century ago, Malcolm's ideas and legacies have still been honored thanks to a variety of black Hip-Hop artists’ works.
At a party in memory of Malcolm X, Tupac Shakur showed strong emotion and appreciation for the painful and heroic memories of the struggle of black people at that time. After the death of DJ Scott La Rock from being shot to death by gang conflict in 1987, KRS One founded the "Stop the Violence" movement with the song Self Destruction, which opened with the vocals of Malcolm X.
During the opening of Public Enemy's Bring the Noise track, Malcolm's voice can be heard saying, "Too black, too strong". Chuck D has admitted that Malcolm X is the hero of his life. Kendrick Lamar once replied in an interview: "Malcolm X's thought and morality are deeply ingrained in my music because I have been reading his books since I was a teenager and it has entirely changed my perspective.”
"I know he’s gone… but he’s not forgotten.
I know he died just to set me free… yes Malcolm’s gone, but he’s not forgotten, he died just to save me, give me back dignity."
The life of Malcolm's struggle also became a subject that was explored a lot in cinematic works. Malcolm X (1992) played by actor Denzel Washington was nominated for an Oscar by the American Academy. A new Netflix series "Who Killed Malcolm X?" was also incredibly impressed by portraying the assassination of one the world's most prominent black revolutionaries.
Not only that, but Malcolm's image has also become a strong fashion inspiration. This is how later generations treasured Malcolm’s commitment to the struggle for racism and disseminate strong racial pride, as Malcolm once provided to them.
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