He was born in a nation
that claimed to represent
liberty and justice for all.
But there were a few exceptions.
Young Malcolm Little was Black.
The Jim Crow laws effectively said,
that Black people had no rights.
They also claimed that this system was a democracy.
Malcolm’s parents supported
the ideas of Marcus Mosiah Garvey
who argued that Black people
have a rich history to be proud of.
Garvey looked at the world he lived in
and felt that Black people
would only gain control of their lives
on the mother continent; Africa.
Malcolm’s parents moved to Nebraska and Michigan
to spread the message Garvey promoted.
But those in power liked things as they were,
and a mob lynched Malcolm’s father, Earl Little.
Earl Little was one of thousands
of Black people who were lynched in this country.
The government was not interested in prosecuting the murderers,
because Black people, effectively, had no rights in this country.
The insurance company ruled the lynching of
Earl Little to be a suicide.
So, both the government and the insurance company
became accomplices in the murder of Earl Little.
Malcolm and his seven brothers and sisters
were placed in foster homes.
Eventually Malcolm went to Boston
to live with a relative.
Malcolm was the smartest student in his class
and had dreams of becoming a lawyer.
But his teacher said he needed to be “realistic”
about being the n—word, and a lawyer wasn’t a job for an n—word.
Malcolm gravitated to what was known as the “ghetto” section of Roxbury.
He said, “That world of grocery stores, walk-up flats,
cheap restaurants, poolrooms, bars, storefront churches, and pawnshops
seemed to hold a natural lure for me.
Not only was this part of Roxbury much more exciting,
but I felt more relaxed among Negroes
who were being their natural selves and not putting on airs.”
Since he was denied equal rights, he became something similar
to a corporate lawyer, he became a thief.
When the police arrested him,
Malcolm was seeing a white woman.
The judge didn’t like this,
and gave Malcolm a harsher sentence.
While in prison Malcolm began to educate himself
and read all the books he could get his hands on.
His family introduced Malcolm
to the ideas of Elijah Mohammed.
Elijah Mohammed said: “As long as we are not allowed
to establish a state or territory of our own,
we demand not only equal justice under the laws of the United States,
but equal employment opportunities—NOW!
“We do not believe that after 400 years of free or nearly free labor, sweat and blood, which has helped America become rich and powerful,
that so many thousands of black people
should have to subsist on relief, charity, or live in poor houses.”
Those ideas were similar to the teachings of Marcus Garvey,
and Malcolm became a member of the Nation of Islam.
After his release from prison,
Malcolm became a leader of the NOA.
At that time there were many Black people
who became enraged by the system
that refused to give them the equal rights
of human beings.
Malcolm X understood this attitude well and argued:
“Being here in America doesn’t make you an American.
Why, if birth made you an American, you wouldn’t need any legislation,
you wouldn’t need any amendments to the Constitution.”
“Don’t let anybody tell you that the odds are against you.
If they draft you, they send you to Korea
and make you face 800 million Chinese.
If you can be brave over there, you can be brave right here.”
“Expand the civil-rights struggle to the level of human rights,
take it to the United Nations, where our African brothers
can throw their weight on our side, where our Asian brothers
can throw their weight on our side.
Malcolm supported the second amendment of the Constitution and said:
“where the government has proven itself either unwilling or unable
to defend the lives and property of Negros,
its time for Negros to defend themselves.”
When the police beat two members of the Nation of Islam
Malcolm organized the Fruit of Islam and the Harlem community.
This demonstration forced the police to send Johnson Hinton to the hospital.
He would receive $70,000 as a result of a lawsuit.
When the press asked Malcolm about the assassination of
President John F. Kennedy, he said:
“that the hate in white men
had not stopped with the killing of defenseless black people,
but that hate, allowed to spread unchecked,
finally struck down this country’s Chief of State.
I said it was the same thing as had happened with
Medgar Evers, with Patrice Lummumba.”
This statement along with other issues
caused Malcolm to split from Elijah Mohammed,
and he formed the Organization of Afro-American Unity
This was one of the activities the organization proposed.
“We propose to support rent strikes.
Yes, not little, small rent strikes in one block.
We’ll make Harlem a rent strike.
We’ll get every black man in this city;
the Organization of Afro-American Unity
won’t stop until there’s not a black man in the city not on strike.
Nobody will pay rent. The whole city will come to a halt.
And they can’t put all of us in jail because they’ve already got the jails full of us.”
Malcolm viewed the struggle for the liberation of Black people
to be a part of an international struggle.
At that time there were revolutionary struggles erupting around the world.
This is what Malcolm had to say about the Vietnamese revolution:
“The French were deeply entrenched for a hundred years or so.
They had the best weapons of warfare, a highly mechanized army,
everything that you would need,
and the guerrillas came out of the rice paddies
with nothing but sneakers on and a rifle and a bowl of rice,
nothing but gym shoes—tennis shoes—and a rifle and a bowl of rice,
And you know what they did in Dien Bien Phu. They ran the French out of there. And if the French were deeply entrenched and couldn’t stay there, then how do you think someone else is going to stay there, who isn’t even there yet?”
When the Cuban revolutionaries came to New York,
Malcolm arranged for them to stay at Harlem’s Theresa Hotel.
There he met with Fidel Castro
and they discussed the prospects for liberation.
Malcolm visited nations throughout Africa
and met with leaders who had years of experience
fighting against colonialism.
They discussed how the struggles in Africa and America were intertwined.
He argued that he wasn’t about teaching people about their oppression.
No, but when you teach people about
their heritage, their humanity, and their worth as human beings,
then you’ll get action.
People have learned much from the life of Malcolm X.
We have a lot more that we can learn.
He will forever be the light that shows us how we can achieve liberation
“By any means necessary.”