Malcolm little was born on May 19, 1925, the son of Louise and Earl Little of Omaha, Nebraska. Louise Little was a mulatto born in Grenada in the British West Indies, and Earl Little, a six-foot, very dark skinned man from Reynolds, Ga., was a Baptist minister and organizer for Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association. Louise, his second wife, bore six children: Wilfred, Hilda, Philbert, Malcolm, Yvonne, and Reginald. Earl Little also had three children by a first wife: Ella, Earl, and Mary. Little had migrated with his family from Philidelphia to the midwest, first to Milwaukee, then Omaha, and finally to East Lansing, Mich.
A few months after his arrival in Roxbury, a predominantly black section of Boston, Malcolm dropped out of school (having completed eigth grade) and took a job as a shoeshine boy at the Roseland Ballroom in Boston's Back Bay section. A career as a hustler seemed a more tempting option, and he was soon peddling narcotics. Roxbury proved to be too small for him, and in 1942 he took a job as a railroad dining-car porter, working out of Roxbury and Harlem. Settling in Harlem, he became involved in criminal activities (robbery, Prostitution, and narcotics).
Malcolm soon learned to survive in hustler society, which was composed of fleeting social arrangements constantly threatened by internal wars that rendered every man potentially every other man's enemy. He lived up to his nickname = "Red" (in the more urban-conscious NewYork "Detroit Red"); red headed black men to the superstitious were literally sons of the devel, quick tempered and capable of cruel violence. After a year in Harlem, Malcolm was officially initiated into hustler society. He returned to Boston in 1945 after a falling out with another hustler, and continued a life of crime, forming his own house robbing gang. Arrested for robbery in February 1946, he was convicted and sentenced to the Charlestown, Mass., prison for seven years.
While in prison, Malcolm became a follower of Elijah Muhammad, the leader of a small, urban prophet-cult, the Nation of Islam, with branches in Detroit, Chicago, and New York. Malcolm and Elijah Muhammad corresponded by mail. Malcolm's brother Reginald and half sister Ella, visiting him in prison, urged him to join Muhammad's cult, and while still in prison he did. He discarded his "slave name," Little, and was assigned the new name "X". His conversion led him to greater literacy, immersion in the Qur'an (Koran), strict adherence to the Nation of Islam's dietary laws, and what was to be a lifelong interest in ideas. After his parole in 1952, Malcolm X undertook organizational work for the Nation of Islam under the guidance of Elijah Muhammad. Malcolm founded mosques in Boston, Philadelphia, Harlem, and elsewhere and was credited with the national expansion of the movement, the membership of which evidently reached approximately 30,000 by 1963.
Malcolm X came to broad public notice as a result of a July 13-17, 1959, television special with Mike Wallace called The Hate That Hate Produced, which told the story of Malcolm X's emergence as one of the most important leaders of the Nation of Islam. The program also brought the Nation of Islam (also known as the Black Muslim movement) to the attention of a wide American public. Further, Malcolm X's vision was expressed in speeches, a newspaper column (first in Harlem's Amsterdam News and later moved to the Los Angeles Herald Dispatch), and radio and television interviews. In addition, he helped found the Black Muslim newspaper Muhammad Speaks.
Because of tension's in the Nation of Islam, many allegations of hypocrisy and illegitimacy against Elijah, and plots against Malcolm, he became critical of Elijah Muhammad and the way the Nation of Islam operated. He was eventually "silenced," for 90 days after commenting on the assassination of Pres. John F. Kennedy with the phrase "chickens come home to roost." But before his silence was lifted, Malcolm X left the Nation of Islam to form the Muslim Mosque, Inc. (March 1964). He began to articulate a more secular black nationalism, arguing that blacks should control the politics within their own community and, through his speeches, encouraging his followers to use the ballot to effect change.
At the height of his powers Malcolm X was one of black America's most compelling voices. He had enormous influence among black youth and in progressive intellectual circles. He traveled widely in Europe and Africa, modeling his Organization of Afro-American Unity after the Organization of African Unity. He saw the black American struggle partly as an extension of the effort of third world nations for human rights.
Malcolm X went on his obligatory pilgrimage to Mecca in 1964 and there began to consider changing his views toward integration. Afterward he was, if anything, more ambiguous about the outcome of the race struggle in the United States, and he left open the doors for whites to help contribute to the struggle. After the pilgrimage he adopted the name El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz.(El-Hajj is the title given to muslim's who have completed the obligatory pilgrimage)
"There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and non-white.
"America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem. Throughout my travels in the Muslim world, I have met, talked to, and even eaten with people who in America would have been considered white - but the white attitude was removed from their minds by the religion of Islam. I have never before seen sincere and true brotherhood practiced by all colors together, irrespective of their color.
"You may be shocked by these words coming from me. But on this pilgrimage, what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to rearrange much of my thought-patterns previously held, and to toss aside some of my previous conclusions. This was not too difficult for me. Despite my firm convictions, I have always been a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge unfolds it. I have always kept an open mind, which is necessary to the flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent search for truth."In Early 1965, Malcolm's home in Queens, N.Y. was fire bombed (believed to be by the Nation of Islam)...as he, his wife and their six children slept . In Febuary of the same year, as he addressed 400 supporters at the Audubon Ballroom in the Washington Heights section of upper Manhattan, he was shot and killed Three members of the Nation of Islam were convicted in March 1966 of first degree murder: Talmadge Hayer, Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson.