Born on this day in 1925, Malcolm Little grew up in poverty and lived a life of crime. While in prison he worked to self-educate and converted to Islam, Publicly he became known as Malcolm X, dropping what he referred to as his “slave name.” Intelligent, articulate and charismatic, Malcolm X would become one of the leading figures of the fight for equality for African-Americans. In contrast to Martin Luther King who called for non-violent protest, Malcolm X believed that violence would be necessary for black people to gain their rights. Early on he was considered to be a black-supremacist who believed that blacks and whites could never live together. However, he would eventually disavow that position, and would preach the equality of all people and express a hope for peaceful coexistence. In the years prior to his death, he began to reach out with a willingness to work with other Civil Rights groups and leaders. In particular it was after the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca required of all Muslims, where he experienced the coming together of people of all races and backgrounds, that he embraced the possibility of peaceful change rather than inevitable violence. Tragically, he wouldn’t live long in pursuit of those dreams. He was assassinated in 1965 by members of the group he formerly led, the Nation of Islam.
For more on the life of Malcolm X:
MalcolmX.com (official website of the estate of Malcolm X)