“We declare our right on this earth to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.” Malcolm X
When Malcolm X became involved with the Nation of Islam, it literally changed his life. He went from a thief and pimp to a respected leader against racism in the United States. The changes to his life were dramatic. Not only did others respect him, he finally did something with his life that gained him some self-respect. In his beginning years with the Nation of Islam, he advocated segregation between blacks and whites. He advocated that blacks should take back their human rights denied them for so long by any means necessary, including violence. The reason I selected the above quote from one of his speeches is because it shows that he outgrew the Nation of Islam. He suddenly became aware that he could use his words to bring about this change that he so longed for in America.
In the last two years before he was murdered, he made a journey to Saudi Arabia, and once again, he was moved in a life-changing way. This trip brought him the realization that he needed to speak for all people whose human rights have been stripped away from them regardless of race or color. With this realization, he had come full circle, and because this revelation brought a new light and power in him to change the world, the Nation of Islam considered him a threat.
Malcolm X Timeline:
May 19, 1925 Malcolm Little is born in Omaha, NE.
1929 The family’s Lansing, MI, home is burned to the ground.
1931 Malcolm’s father is found dead on the town’s trolley tracks.
1946 Malcolm is sentenced to 8-10 years for armed robbery; serves 6 years at Charlestown, MA State Prison.
1948-49 Converts to the Nation of Islam while in prison.
1953 Changes name from Malcolm Little to Malcolm X and becomes Assistant Minister of Nation of Islam’s Detroit Temple.
1954 Promoted to Minister of Nation of Islam’s New York Temple.
1958 Marries Sister Betty X in Lansing, Michigan.
1959 Travels to Middle East and Africa.
1963 Nation of Islam orders Malcolm X to be silent, allegedly because of remarks concerning President Kennedy’s assassination.
March, 1964 Malcolm X leaves the Nation of Islam and starts his new organization, Muslim Mosque, Inc.
April, 1964 Travels to Middle East and Africa.
May, 1964 Starts the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), a secular political group.
February 14, 1965 Malcolm X’s home is firebombed.
February 21, 1965 Malcolm X is assassinated as he begins speaking at the Audubon Ballroom, New York.
Among the themes that Malcolm X used in his writing and in his speeches are:
Survival in a White Society
Humanity and Rights
Contributions to African Americans:
Malcolm X left behind a powerful message – black people needed to become educated and to fight for their rights as human beings. He is credited with raising the self-esteem of black Americans and reconnecting them with their African heritage. In the late 1960s, when black activists became more radical, Malcolm X’s teachings were part of the foundation on which they built their movements. The Black Power Movement, the Black Arts Movement, and the adoption of the slogan “Black is Beautiful” can all trace their roots to Malcolm X. In a little more than a year from his prison release, he was named the minister at the NOI’s Boston mosque. Muhammad Speaks, the NOI newspaper, was founded by Malcolm X. He became a prominent speaker at universities, television and radio. In 1963, The New York Times named him as the second most sought after speaker in the United States. He led the Unity Rally in Harlem in 1963 which became one of the nations largest civil rights events. In 1964, he formed the Muslin Mosque, Inc., and the Organization of Afro- American Unity.
Audioclip from Malcolm’s famous speech: By Any Means Necessary
From the days when African Americans relied on Negro spirituals to lift them high above the tragedy of slavery, many great leaders, Malcolm X included, took up the fight to bring racial equality to the oppressed. I wanted to link their words together in a poem. For poetry purposes, some of their words have been condensed and reworded.
“We the people” took up the cry
of equality for all men.
Though eloquent and meaning well,
it applied not to black men.
Body to body they laid.
Not understanding what was ahead –
that their lives were just for “trade.”
Frederick Douglas found the words
He told them that the “year will come”
And with it, “freedom’s reign.”
Booker T. admonished all
that “nothing comes without hard work.”
for the white man’s sin still lurked.
Du Buis took up the battle cry,
said that “merit isn’t in the skin.”
Success just isn’t measured there
but in the struggles that we win.
Dunbar says, “We wear the mask”
the mask that grins and lies.
And in the mask it “hides our cheeks
Then Claude McKay says “If we must die,
don’t let it be like hogs.
When all around we hear the cry
when all is said and done?
Does it just dry up and fade away
like a raisin in the sun?”
in many public scenes
and promised they would claim their rights
by “any necessary means.”
“that my children will have their day
when they’re judged not by the skin they wear
but by the character they display.”
Dedicated to all those who lived their life that others might have freedom in our great country.
Secondary Research Sources:
DeCaro, Jr., Louis A. On the Side of My People: A Religious Life of Malcolm X. New York: New York University Press, 1996. Print.
Dyson, Michael Eric. Making Malcolm: The Myth and Meaning of Malcolm X. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995. Print.
Evanzz, Karl. The Judas Factor: The Plot to Kill Malcolm X. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1992. Print.
Friedly, Michael. Malcolm X: The Assassination. New York: One World, 1992. Print.
“Malcolm X Biography.” BioTrueStory, 2012. Web. 1 August 2012.
Published Works by Malcolm X with links:
- The Autobiography of Malcolm X. With the assistance of Alex Haley. New York: Grove Press, 1965. OCLC 219493184.
- Malcolm X Speaks: Selected Speeches and Statements. George Breitman, ed. New York: Merit Publishers, 1965. OCLC 256095445.
- Malcolm X Talks to Young People. New York: Young Socialist Alliance, 1965. OCLC 81990227.
- Two Speeches by Malcolm X. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1965. OCLC 19464959.
- Malcolm X on Afro-American History. New York: Merit Publishers, 1967. OCLC 78155009.
- The Speeches of Malcolm X at Harvard. Archie Epps, ed. New York: Morrow, 1968. OCLC 185901618.
- By Any Means Necessary: Speeches, Interviews, and a Letter by Malcolm X. George Breitman, ed. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1970. OCLC 249307.
- The End of White World Supremacy: Four Speeches by Malcolm X. Benjamin Karim, ed. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1971. OCLC 149849.
- The Last Speeches. Bruce Perry, ed. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-87348-543-2.
- Malcolm X Talks to Young People: Speeches in the United States, Britain, and Africa. Steve Clark, ed. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1991. ISBN 978-0-87348-962-1.
- February 1965: The Final Speeches. Steve Clark, ed. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1992. ISBN 978-0-87348-749-8.