African American rights leader was assassinated on Feb 21, 1965
Sunday marks the 56th death anniversary of Malcolm X, a civil rights leader in the US.
He came to the fore as a hero for African Americans, and the Islamic world looking for a post-colonial identity, and is also remembered as one of the icons in the struggle for freedom, equality and justice.
Malcolm Little was born on May 19, 1925, the fourth of seven children of Louise Little and Earl Little in Omaha, Nebraska.
His mother served as a secretary in a union defending Black rights, and his father was a priest influenced by Marcus Grays, a Jamaican Black activist.
Malcolm’s father believed there was no place for Blacks among whites in America and advocated for their emigration to Africa, from where they were brought as slaves.
Due to constant threats from white supremacists, the family had to relocate several times.
Malcolm’s father was found dead on tram tracks when he was six years old. It was ruled as an accident but the family said he was murdered.
Following the incident, his mother was diagnosed as mentally unstable due sadness and despair, and admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Michigan, where she stayed for 26 years.
He lived with foster parents on and off, and dropped out of school after his white teacher discouraged him from becoming a lawyer, and instead advised to learn carpentry.
Malcolm moved to Boston at age 15, where he discovered New York City's Harlem neighborhood and learned drug dealing, gambling and robbery.
In 1946, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for burglary.
In prison, Malcom met Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam movement, a turning point in his life.
After release from prison in 1952, he moved to Detroit, the headquarters of the religious movement and became an active member and advocate.
He rejected the surname "Little," saying it was given by white masters in the times of slavery, and changed it to X, which means unknown, referring to his lost roots in Africa.
Malcolm became a vigorous advocate of this marginal movement that did not fully grasp the teachings of Islam, and advocated for the superiority of the Black race in reaction to white racism.
In 1958, Malcolm married Betty Sanders and they had six children.
He said that white racist violence could be responded with violence if necessary, and soon came under close surveillance by the FBI.
In 1959, Malcolm traveled to many countries including Ghana, Sudan, Nigeria, Iran, Syria and Egypt to meet religious and political leaders.
While the FBI and police pressure on Malcolm X and his family increased between 1960 and 1964, a crucial time for the movement, differences emerged between leaders.
He broke away from the group in 1964 and embraced Sunni Islam, adopting the Muslim name el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz.
Renouncing the separatist beliefs of the Nation of Islam, he attempted to internationalize the plight of African Americans, and other oppressed.
The Nation of Islam increased its threats and pressures on Malcolm and on Feb. 14, 1965, a fire bomb was thrown at his house. He survived, but said the attack was carried out "on the orders of Elijah Muhammad."
He was assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem on Feb. 21, 1965. Three members of the Nation of Islam were convicted for the murder.