When people list important figures in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, they will focus on Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. However, Malcolm X is another crucial individual worth discussing. He gave powerful public speeches promoting black empowerment. The American Muslim community, in particular, often cite Malcolm X as an important person for advocating their rights.
He was born in 1925 and spent the majority of his childhood within the foster care system. In 1946, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for larceny. While incarcerated, he converted to Islam. After being granted parole in 1952, Malcolm X rose to become the public face of the Nation of Islam. He would continue to serve this organisation for the next 12 years. His speeches would often have a more radical tone compared to Martin Luther King Jr. He criticised the ineffectiveness of the mainstream civil rights movement.
Malcolm X is often considered a controversial figure because he did not advocate for non-violence or racial integration. However, many people also celebrate him for his messages about increasing the rights of African Americans. Those who follow the Muslim faith sometimes cite him as an inspiring figure within their religion.
While working for the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X focused on improving the welfare of poor African Americans. He recognised the epidemic of drugs within his country. As a result, he promoted free rehabilitation programmes. During his lifetime, Malcolm X attained a hero status. Despite this, there was also concern within the government due to his views that black Americans should arm themselves. During the 1950s, the FBI started surveillance on him.
Like many human rights activists, the life of Malcolm X was tragically cut short. In the 1960s, he left the Nation of Islam after becoming disillusioned with its leader Elijah Muhammad. After a trip to Mecca, he decided to found his own Muslim organisation. He would continue to make speeches against the Nation of Islam and repeatedly received death threats. In February 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated by two members of this organisation. His murder shocked people around the world. This led to a resurgence in the popularity of his posthumous speeches. Consequently, many more people know about Malcolm X now compared to in his lifetime.