Malcolm X

By: Mick Yates

Malcolm X, one of the most controversial leaders of the 21st Century, was born the son of an outspoken Baptist minister in Nebraska, USA.  He grew up amid persecution, enduring his father’s murder and his mother’s committal to an institution.

After graduating top of his class, Malcolm was told that his aim to become a lawyer was an ‘unrealistic goal for a nigger’.  Disillusioned he embarked upon a path of crime which led to a seven year incarceration.  It was here that Malcolm studied the religion of the Nation of Islam (NOI).  He left prison a devoted follower, believing in the superiority of black people and inherent evil of whites.

To symbolise the rejection of his “slave” name Malcolm changed his surname (Little) to ‘X’ and went on speaking tours around the country.  His charisma, passion for his subject and blatant confidence meant he became a highly effective speaker for the organisation, increasing membership from 500 to 30,000.

When news came of his mentor NOI leader Elijah Muhammad’s violation of one of the religion’s highest values, Malcolm became disenchanted.  Experiencing guilt about those he had encouraged to join the organisation, Malcolm undertook a pilgrimage.  He returned believing in equality and a vision of world brotherhood - now Malcolm had a message for all races.

Sadly Malcolm was murdered by NOI members just under a year after his ‘conversion’.  It was a loss which many found hard to comprehend.

Despite his initial extreme beliefs, there can be no doubt of Malcolm’s success as a leader.  With his enthusiasm and conviction he had the ability to capture and maintain attention, offering hope and inspiration.  His willingness to achieve goals ‘by any means necessary’ only added to his appeal. 

By Melanie Smith