Malcom X/Nation of Islam

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The Nation of Islam was founded during the Great Depression in Detroit, Michigan by a silk merchant named Wallace D. Fard. He began preaching to the black community that they didn’t deserve to live in poverty, and that the white people exploited the people so much that Fard believed that this community needed their own state. Fard accumulated more than 8,000 followers who believed that Fard was actually god, in the form of man. Elijah Poole, later known as Elijah Muhammad, took over the Nation of Islam after Fard’s disappearance in 1934. One Nation of Islam follower widely known for his work was Malcolm X. Malcolm X was born on May 19, 1925 under the name Malcolm Little, the fourth child of Rev. Earl and Louise Little. Malcolm’s father was of Baptist faith that preached on Sundays, and supported Universal Negro Improvement Association and Marcus Garvey, a stirring orator who advocated black pride and a black exodus from the United States to Africa. Rev. Little spread Garvey’s message, and this, according to legend, is what got him killed by white supremacists in 1931. (Gale 1997) At age 6, Malcolm’s widowed mother Louise suffered a mental breakdown and was declared insane. Through all this, Malcolm managed to keep his spirits up by getting good grades, debating, playing basketball, and hoping someday to become a lawyer, only to have his dreams crushed at the age of 14, by a critical white teacher. “That’s no realistic goal for a nigger,” his teacher told him, and that he should aim at doing some sort of work with his hands. (Frost 2001) Malcolm’s dreams were crushed, and at the age of 16 he moved up to New York with his sister. There he worked on the streets of New York dealing drugs and hustling. By the time he was 20 years old, he was the leader of a burglar ring, and was caught with stolen goods. He was sentenced to 8-10 years in prison, which turned out to change Malcolm’s life around. A man named Bimbi, who Malcolm admired, inspired him to straighten up. Malcolm began hitting the books, sometimes spending half the days in the prison library; it seemed he was searching for something to get him out of the rut he’s been in since he was 14. (Frost 2001) Malcolm began receiving letters from his brother, Reginald, who told him in his writings about the Nation of Islam, the teachings of an uncle... ... middle of paper ... ... into orthodox Islam. African-Americans' interest in their Islamic roots has flourished since Malcolm’s death. (Haley) The memory and image of Malcolm X has changed as much after his death as his own philosophies changed during his lifetime. Malcolm was first thought to be a violent militant, but now he is understood as an advocate of self-help, self-defense, and education. He succeeded in putting together history, religion, and mythology as a skeleton for his eventual belief in world brotherhood and human justice. In his eyes, Malcolm thought faith was a prelude to action, and that ideas were useless without policy. Malcolm X’s autobiography is read in schools throughout the United States. It has inspired some African-Americans to get involved in their Islamic roots. In 1992, Spike Lee made a movie based on the autobiography that sparked an interest in the meaning of life and death of Malcolm X. X Russ Lahey Bibliography Frost, Bob “The Complex Journey of Malcolm X.” Biography Feb. 2001, Vol. 5, p64 Gale, Thomas “Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz)” The African American Almanac, 1997, 7th ed. Haley, Alex and X, Malcolm The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Oct 1992
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