Then and Now: The Leaders of Black History; Malcolm X

After overcoming drug addiction and a former life of crime, Malcolm X became one of the country’s most prominent civil rights leaders of the 20th century. He lead the black power movement of the 1960s and 1970s, and preached to the masses about what it truly means to be a black citizen in the United States.

Born Malcolm Little from Omaha, Nebraska to parents Earl and Louise Little, Malcolm X learned to live on his own after his father’s death. His mother never recovered from the shock of her husband’s death, and was admitted into a mental institution. Malcolm and his siblings were then separated, and placed into foster homes. After being almost abandoned, Malcolm turned to a life of crime.

While serving a six-year prison sentence for burglary, Malcolm converted to Islam. Two years after his release in 1954, he became minister at the Nation of Islam temples in Boston, Philadelphia and New York. Then, in 1957, Malcolm X created the Nation of Islam newspaper, Muhammad Speaks. In his newspaper, Malcolm X described his philosophy on black power, beauty and pride. During the 1960s, Muhammad Speaks was the most widely read black newspaper in the United States. Malcolm X’s theories that he explained in his newspaper outlined the black power movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

During the black power movement, Malcolm X created the phrase “black is beautiful.” By 1963, Malcolm X had then become the second most sought after speaker in the United States. In the same year, Malcolm X created the Unity Rally. This rally was one of the biggest gatherings of civil rights. After breaking from the Nation of Islam in 1964, Malcolm X preached peaceful resistance and the beautiful benefits of integration and unity.

In 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated in New York. Although he passed, his legacy lives on through the autobiography written by Alex Haley, ‘The Autobiography of Malcolm X.’ Malcolm X’s ideals also influenced the Black Lives Matter movement, once again proving that being black is powerful, beautiful and prideful.

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