"The Autobiography of Malcolm X" was published in 1965 as a joint effort between journalist Alex Haley and African American rights activist, Malcolm X. The book was written from a series of interviews that Haley conducted with Malcolm during the final two years of his life and published in the year he was assassinated after which an epilogue was added.Haley's authorial voice was left … [Read more...]
Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little on May 19th, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska. The son of a preacher and a half-white woman from the island of Grenada, Malcolm was one of seven siblings in the family. As a child, Malcolm's family moved around often to avoid the white supremacists who eventually succeeded in killing his father. The police ruled the death as a suicide and Malcolm's family received no insurance payments from his father's death which resulted in abject poverty for several years.
During this time, Malcolm's mother, Louise was remanded to a mental institution for a nervous breakdown and Malcolm and his siblings were split up into foster homes. Malcolm was an excellent student, but dropped out to move to Boston to live with his sister at the age of 14. For many years, he took odd jobs to support himself, eventually tending toward criminal activities like selling drugs and working for pimps.
During the second world war, Malcolm managed to evade the draft by convincing the draft board that he wanted to exterminate southern whites. They ruled him mentally unfit, and he was not drafted into the war.
In 1945, he was arrested for a series of burglaries in Boston and sent to prison with a ten year sentence. It was during Malcolm's time in prison that he converted to the Nation of Islam religion and became the powerful public speaker that he later came to be famous as. A fellow convict introduced him to the religion and Malcolm appreciated it's tenants supporting black identity and independence.
Malcolm begin communicating with the leader of the religion, Elijah Muhammad in prison. When he was released early from prison for good behavior, Malcolm quickly became a proponent of the religion and was promoted to Elijah Muhammad's second in command within a year. During this time, Malcolm met and married Betty Sanders in 1955 and the two had five children together, two of which were twins born after Malcolm's death.
Unfortunately, this relationship only lasted 12 years, as some comments that Malcolm made after President John F. Kennedy's assassination caused a rift between him and Elijah that eventually saw him exiled from the religion. During his time with the Nation, Malcolm became a public speaker on a nationwide scale, and his prominence created some tension between him and that Nation.
After he was exiled, Malcolm began a journey to the holy city of Mecca and then a tour of other countries that were interested in the plight of black Americans. Two years before his death, Malcolm began a series of interviews with the journalist Alex Haley that would later become the bestselling book, "The Autobiography of Malcolm X".
In the final years of his life, Malcolm's conflict with the Nation and other prominent groups led to many deaths threats and his eventual assassination by three shooters on February 21st, 1965 while speaking at the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan. He was shot 21 times and died just after 3:30 pm at a nearby hospital.
Malcolm's funeral was attended by thousands of people from all walks of life and many prominent civil rights leaders of the time. He was buried in Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York, and a charity was created after his death to raise money for his family.