Photograph by Ed Ford, 1964
New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection, Library of Congress
His was a voice—for environmental justice, and for the Ogoni peoples—that could not be stopped.
1925–1965, b. Omaha, Neb.
Worked in New York and globally
. . . During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass—while praying to the same God—with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white. And in the words and in the actions and in the deeds of the “white” Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among the black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan, and Ghana.
We were truly all the same . . . I could see from this, that perhaps if white Americans could accept the Oneness of God, then perhaps, too, they could accept in reality the Oneness of Man . . .
—Malcolm X, in letter from Mecca following his hajj, 1964
As long as we think that we should get Mississippi straightened out before we worry about the Congo, you’ll never get Mississippi straightened out.
—Malcolm X, addressing Organization for Afro-American Unity, New York, 1964
• Malcolm Little converted to the Nation of Islam, an African-American organization that combined Islamic teachings with Black nationalism, while incarcerated between 1946 and 1952. He adopted the new surname “X.”
• Malcolm X quickly became one of the Nation of Islam’s most prominent leaders and public advocates, articulating positions of Black racial pride while giving voice to a generation of Black Americans’ frustrations during the civil rights movement. He was the intellectual leader of the United States’ growing Black Power movement.
• Malcolm X publicly fell out with the Nation of Islam’s leadership in 1963. He credited his hajj to Mecca the following year as a second conversion, taking the name El Hajji Malik El-Shabazz.
• Newly awakened to a sense of global solidarity with brothers and sisters throughout the formerly colonized world, Malcolm became an advocate of pan-Africanism—arguing that African Americans’ struggles intersected with global struggles for liberation.
• Malcolm X was assassinated while speaking in Harlem on February 21, 1965. Three members of the Nation of Islam were convicted of the murder and sentenced to life in prison.
• His memoir, The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965), became a global touchstone—the story of a man’s journey from a troubled childhood to human rights activist and global icon of Black solidarity.