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Malcolm X was a great African American Leader, but there is one question that comes to mind when his name is mentioned. Why was Malcolm X such a controversial man? I will now tell you about the life and times of Malcolm, and while doing so, attempt to answer this, o so timely question that so many have asked.
Malcolm Little was born in 1925, in Omaha, Nebraska. His mother, Luis Little was a house wife. His father, Earl Little was a well-known Baptist Minister. When Malcolm was three years old, white supremacist's threats to his father forced the rather large family the parents had, to move. They chose to settle in Lansting, Michigan. But this homestead would not last for long. Soon after, their house was turned to ashes by more Area Nation members. But the hate would not stop there.
Only two years later Earl Little has found dead on the trolley tracks. The Police, of course, presumed both the death, and the fire, accidents. But Malcolm and his family knew the hateful truth.
These Events led to the mental sickness of the tattered widow and mother, Louis Little. She was committed to an Institution (Barbara Haberman, 2002). Malcolm and his brothers and sisters were split up into foster homes and orphanages.
Despite all this tragedy, Malcolm became a good student in Elementary and middle school. He had dreams of becoming a successful lawyer someday. But one teacher, that Malcolm had favored, shattered these dreams in just one ignorant statement. He told him that this aspiration of becoming something of such a profession, was “no realistic goal for a nigger”-Teacher‘s name not known- (Barbara Haberman, 2002). This statement, that if told to any white man of that time, would have been thought to be true. Malcolm soon turned away from school and all he had cared about.
In High School, Malcolm became rebellious. After he later dropped out, he became a hustler while going through odd jobs. New York City was the place for this zoot suit wearing bad boy. For four years he shifted between NYC, Boston, and Michigan. Soon Malcolm had gotten caught up the conation and lost trace of his morals. He was even caught staling from friends and family. Once Malcolm said he wanted “to fight for the Japanese and kill crackers (white people)” ((whole paragraph) William Strickland, 1964)
In 1946 Malcolm was sentenced to 10 years in Massachusetts State Prison for the burglary he had recently committed.
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Malcolm’s Great Leadership
After all of this great revolution, Malcolm had a visit from his brother, Reginald.
He told Malcolm of his recent conversion to a Black Muslim group called The Nation of Islam (Barbara Haberman, 2002). This was intriguing to Malcolm. He studied the beliefs and the work of the leader, Elijah Muhammad. He continued this through out the remainder of his sentence.
The Nation of Islam believed that white people didn’t want the black man to succeed on the white man’s land. Malcolm believed blacks and whites should segregate and succeed without the “enemy’s” regulations. The Blacks Muslims even wanted their own state to gain unity in the black community (Barbara Haberman, 2002). Soon Malcolm would become a great leader of this new group of people.
After Malcolm got out of prison he decided to change his last name from Little, to “X”. He had studied his origin and found his family had been brought over as slaves.
He believed that “little” had been given to him by a white man who sold slaves. He didn’t like the fact that a white man could control something so major. When he went to find his ancestor’s original name, he could not find anything at all. As a result, he changed his last name to “x” to represent the lost name he rightfully owned. It also represented his new step in life. Malcolm X, A great American leader.
Malcolm filled every news show and paper in, and out of the New York City area. People crazed over the controversial “Black Muslims” the name, which Malcolm detested as he said in his Autobiography. He, along with many other leaders gave speeches on their beliefs. Because Malcolm advocated violence and because of the harsh, blunt manner of setting forth his message, Malcolm X and his followers were referred to as “black racists” and “black supremacists” by the hypocritical white man. Even some black people were against the Nation of Islam. ((Whole paragraph) Malcolm X/ Alex Haley, 1963)
Malcolm X immediately joined Detroit’s Temple No. I. He was alarmed that the word had not been spread so he asked Elijah Muhammad, at their 1st official meeting, what he could do to help the Islamic beliefs to be vocalized more widely, “Go after the young people.” (William Strickland, 1964) Elijah advised. And that, Malcolm did. In less than a year, Malcolm recruited triple the membership. He was made assistant minister. Muhammad then personally trained him. Soon Malcolm had converted people from Flint and Lansing Michigan. In 1953, he developed Muhammad’s Temple No. II. In Boston, Massachusetts.
Along side Martin Luther King, Jr.
Malcolm worked along side Martin Luther King Junior. Although Malcolm and Martin had very many different views on the issues they were facing, they both had one thing in common. They both wanted equality between the races. In some people's eyes, Malcolm may seem the ignorant between the two great leaders. For Malcolm wanted segregation, while Martin wanted to work together which was the favorable thing to do in the long run. This is why so many more people know of the teachings of Martin Luther King. Only, I don’t think Malcolm was fighting for what was more ‘likable’ to the people. He fought for what he believed in, and he fought until the end. But even Malcolm could change his ways of thinking. And this next paragraph will explain the latter part of Malcolm X’s life, as he moves away from the chaos.
Change In Values
El-Haj Malik El-Shabazz, Malcolm’s new name as a Muslim (Malcolm X/ Alex Haley, 1963). He had, yet again changed his name in order to show of his compassion. No longer would Malcolm bother to deal with the ignorance of the people who could not understand his ways of thinking. ‘El-Haj’ quit the Nation of Islam or N.O.I. He now concentrated on his new found strong Muslim Beliefs and his god Allah. He moved to Mecca. He explained in a letter to his wife that his belief in this god took the “white” out of the Muslims he stayed with in Mecca. And so the segregated ways of the N.O.I. could no longer apply to Malcolm. Back home he was regarded as a trader to the N.O.I.’s. In 1965 El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz was killed in February of that year by two Nation of Islam leaders Malcolm had once worked with.
Why was Malcolm X such a controversial man? Malcolm created a great uproar in America that is still remembered today. Many people remember him for his brilliance and well thought out speeches. Others remember him for his willingness to make his impression without caring about the negative reactions many times he received. His avocation of violence is one of the mane reasons so many, even fellow black men, disapproved of Malcolm X and still do to this day. Malcolm led an abrupt, unsteady way of life. But with such a short time to put forth his great message of hope, he managed to pass forth his legacy to us in so many ways. His teachings of equality have lived on until this day and will continue to strike the minds of many people of all races, as it did to me, for many years to come.