Extraordinary African Americans Essay, Research Paper
Not all African-American leaders in the 1950’s and 1960’s agreed with Dr. Martin Luther King’s ideas of nonviolence. Some blacks did not want to be “brothers” with whites. They did not think integration would work either. They wanted a separate black nation. Malcolm X was the most outspoken of King’s opponents. As a minister in the Black Muslim movement, Malcolm X called for militant action in the fight against racism. He was tired of waiting for progress in the racial struggle. Malcolm X thought blacks should take their civil rights, using force if needed. He called for a revolution to form a separate black nation. Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1925. His father was a Baptist minister and a follower of Marcus Garvey. (Marcus Garvey felt that African Americans should return to Africa and set up their own nation.) Malcolm X grew up in violent times. Three of his uncles were lynched by the Ku Klux Klan. His father was threatened as well. So the family moved away to East Lansing, Michigan, hoping to be safe. Malcolm X s father kept preaching his militant ideas to African Americans. When Malcolm X was four, the Klan set fire to his home as the family slept. They escaped just as the house fell down around them. Yet Malcolm X s father kept preaching. And, when Malcolm X was six, the Klan killed his father by throwing him under a trolley cart, where he was cut in two. By the age of six Malcolm X knew more about violence and death then any other child should know. Malcolm X got high grades and was a popular student in junior high. But after finishing the eighth grade, he left school. He lived on the streets of Detroit, Boston, and Harlem. He began a life of street crime. Later he was sent to prison for burglary. Malcolm later said, I finished the eighth grade at Mason Junior High. My high school was the black ghetto of Roxbury, Massachusetts. My collage was in the streets of Harlem. And my master s was taken in prison. It was prison that finally gave Malcolm X direction. While there, he became interested in the Black Muslim religion. Muslims taught black pride, black culture, family unity, and black separation. They did not allow the use of tobacco, drugs, or alcohol. The Black Muslims also stressed education. Malcolm X began attending the prison school. He read everything he could find, including the dictionary and a complete set of encyclopedias. After he got out of prison Malcolm X joined the Muslims. At this time he changed his name from Malcolm Little to Malcolm X. Little had once been the last name of the white family that owned Malcolm s ancestor. Thus X replaced his old slave name. Malcolm X went to Chicago to meet Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Black Muslims. It did not take long before Malcolm X had become second in command to Muhammad. He also edited the newspaper called Muhammad Speaks. For twelve years Malcolm X preached the Black Muslim message. He organized scores of temples across the country, Then, in 1963, Malcolm X split from Muhammad s group. This left bad feelings on both sides. Malcolm X felt that integration would not help Africans Americans. What they really needed was economic power. He encouraged blacks to help each other. They should build their own businesses. They should do business with each other. And they should build their own schools. Malcolm X gave African Americans a different view than Dr. King had. He argued that Africans Americans should stop asking for their rights and just take them. He talked of revolution to form a separate society for blacks. This idea scared both blacks and whites. While many blacks liked his ideas, they were too extreme for most. In 1964 Malcolm X traveled to Mecca, the holy city for Muslims. There he made a big change in his views on race. In Mecca he saw Muslims of every race living together in peace and love. He said, The brotherhood! The people of all races, colors, from all over the world coming together as one! It has proved to me the power of me the power of the one God! From that time on he stopped judging people by their skin color. Instead he judged them by their actions. But Malcolm X still wanted to fight for black rights. He insisted on the black pride. He taught that black is beautiful. By 1965 Malcolm X had become afraid for his life. Many of his followers had been beaten. Malcolm X himself received death threats. His house was firebombed. At first Malcolm X thought members of Elijah Muhammad s group were after him. Later he thought the Klan or the FBI was plotting to kill him. But Malcolm X did not stop preaching his ideas. And he kept working on the story of his life, The Autobiography of Malcolm X. The writing was done for him by Alex Haley (who later wrote Roots). Malcolm X hoped this book would further spread his views. On February 21,1965, Malcolm was specking to a group at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem. As he began to speak, a man in the front row stood up and shot him. Two other men rushed forward and shot him, too. One man was caught; the other two fled. To this day, the mystery of who planned the murder has not been solved. Malcolm X is dead. But many of his ideas live on. Malcolm X is a symbol of black manhood, black pride, and black power, of African American embracing their African culture and heritage. Though his ideas, Malcolm X had a lasting impact on American history.