GXB16289 Malcolm X by George Sottung  © Wind River Studios

On May 19, 1925, Malcolm Little was born in Omaha, Nebraska. When he was six years old, his father was murdered by white vigilantes. Dropping out of eighth grade, Malcolm turned to street crime and at the age of 21 was arrested for burglary and sentenced to prison. During this period Malcolm was greatly influenced by the teachings of Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Lost-Found Nation of Islam or Black Muslims. He emerged from his seven years of incarceration with a newfound sense of purpose and a name that reflected this. Believing his surname was a legacy of slavery, Malcolm replaced it with an “X” in honor of his lost African heritage. After meeting with Muhammad, Malcolm was placed in charge of Mosque No. 7 in New York, where his fiery charisma, high intelligence and eloquent oratorical skills won him many followers. He preached that black people should separate themselves culturally, politically, physically and psychologically from white Western civilization. After making a pilgrimage to Mecca, however, Malcolm changed his views on race relations and adopted a more tolerant stance. On March 8, 1964, Malcolm severed his ties with the Nation of Islam. Three months later, he established the Organization of Afro-American Unity to promote black equality without separation from the white community. On February 21, 1965, Malcolm was fatally shot while preparing to give a speech. Today, his maxims of self-reliance, self-respect and economic empowerment continue to be an inspiration for many Americans.

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