Malcolm X was an African American civil rights leader prominent in the Nation of Islam. Until his 1965 assassination, he vigorously supported black nationalism.
Who Was Malcolm X?
Malcolm X was a minister, human rights activist and prominent black nationalist leader who served as a spokesman for the Nation of Islam during the 1950s and 1960s. Due largely to his efforts, the Nation of Islam grew from a mere 400 members at the time he was released from prison in 1952 to 40,000 members by 1960.
A naturally gifted orator, Malcolm X exhorted blacks to cast off the shackles of racism "by any means necessary," including violence. The fiery civil rights leader broke with the Nation of Islam shortly before his assassination in 1965 at the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan, where he had been preparing to deliver a speech.
Early Life and Family
Malcolm X was born on May 19, 1925, in Omaha, Nebraska.
He was the fourth of eight children born to Louise, a homemaker, and Earl Little, a preacher who was also an active member of the local chapter of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and avid supporter of black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey.
Due to Earl Little's civil rights activism, the family was subjected to frequent harassment from white supremacist groups including the Ku Klux Klan and one of its splinter factions, the Black Legion. In fact, Malcolm Little had his first encounter with racism before he was even born.
"When my mother was pregnant with me, she told me later, 'a party of hooded Ku Klux Klan riders galloped up to our home,'" Malcolm later remembered. "Brandishing their shotguns and rifles, they shouted for my father to come out."