Malcolm X (1925-65)
Formerly Malcolm Little, he was arrested and imprisoned for burglary. While in jail Little converted to The Nation of Islam, a religious group founded in Detroit.
At one point in his career he taught that whites were devils, inferior to blacks and doomed to disappear from the globe. In his own words:
Thoughtful white people know they are inferior to Black people. Even [Senator James] Eastland knows it. Anyone who has studied the genetic phase of biology knows that white is considered recessive and black is considered dominant.¹
This strange and hostile brand of scientism was based on the teachings of Fard Muhammad (1891-?), the controversial founder of The Nation of Islam.
Watched by the FBI, Fard Muhammad claimed that the morally inferior “blue-eyed devils” would be destroyed by the appearance of a space ship, an event that would mark global Armageddon.²
Little came to take up the new name “Malcolm X” and ultimately became a Sunni Muslim and black leader, believing that Islam was the religion of choice because it was non-racist.
Malcolm X also advocated a black nation – that is, racial segregation – in the southern USA.
Later, however, his views became more moderate. Instead of focusing on a separate black nation he became a spokesman for human rights, especially among blacks.
Malcolm X toured the United States promoting black solidarity and was assassinated in 1965 by a group of three rival Muslims in Harlem. Since then he has become something of an icon for political activists, artists and pop musicians.
To this day he remains controversial. Some see him as a racist and black supremacist with leanings towards violence. Others see him as one of the greatest and most influential blacks in American history, inspiring figures like Muhammad Ali, liberation movements like Black Power and emancipatory slogans such as “Black is Beautiful.”
² Melanie King, Prophets, Seers & Visionaries, 2009, p. 130.
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- “To Malcolm X on his 84th Birthday” and related posts (womanist-musings.com)
- MLK, Malcolm X, closer than thought? (cnn.com)
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