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The Legacy of Malcolm

Although now dead, Malcolm X's spirit lived on. He was larger in death than he was in life. Born Malcolm Little in 1925, he changed his name to Malcolm X. While in prison, he became a follower of Elijah Muhammad. Muhammad was the leader of an organization called the Nation of Islam. During the 1950's, Malcolm became the primary spokesman for the Nation. He also came of the surveillance of the FBI along with Elijah Muhammad. As was Dr. King's, Malcolm's every move was followed and documented. From Detroit to Selma, from Los Angeles to Mecca, his shadow was the FBI.

Malcolm became a powerful speaker in the movement. As King captured the spirit of the Southern Black, Malcolm became the messiah of the ghettos of Harlem, Chicago, Detroit, and Los Angeles. Initially a small group, the Nation grew rapidly under Malcolm's leadership. He not only spoke the words of the Koran and his spiritual mentor, but he also lived it to its fullest. As the crowds grew to hear him speak, so did the opposition to his rising stardom.

Malcolm taught a message of self help and personal responsibility. This was and still is the message from the Nation of Islam. Like the Nation, he also spoke of a separate nation for Blacks only.

In 1963, Malcolm would split with the Nation. After his ill advised comments regarding the assassination of President Kennedy, Elijah Muhammad suspended him and told him he was not to make any public appearances. By this time, Malcolm was becoming disillusioned with his leader. He had learned that Muhammad had fathered a number of children from several women in his fold. Adultery was a sin and unacceptable in their ranks. Until Malcolm, no one had ever questioned the leader's actions. Malcolm was warned by other followers that there was a plot to kill him. One of his aides was even asked to personally kill him. When Malcolm learned of this, he left the organization and established Muslim Mosque, Inc.

In the Spring of 1964, there would be a dramatic change in his views after traveling to Mecca. While at Mecca, his views of a separate nation and Whites as "devils" began to erode. He found that many of his fellow believers were also White. Upon returning to the U.S. Malcolm no longer preached a message of hatred. He condemned the teachings of Elijah Muhammad and referred to his former leader as a "racist" and a "faker". On February 14, several of Muhammad's followers firebombed Malcolm's home. A week later, on February 21, he was murdered as he addressed his followers at Harlem's Audubon Ballroom.

Malcolm was most remembered for his fiery anti-White man speeches and this was message that was picked up by other separatist organizations. As Martin lie dead, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale were forming the Black Panthers in Oakland, CA.

Author: Kevin Hollaway
Last updated February 8, 1998

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