In his early life, Malcolm became an influential leader of the Nation of Islam, which combined Islam with black nationalism and helped to empower disadvantaged blacks searching for equality in segregated America. Starting in 1946, at the age of twenty, Malcolm X was sentenced to ten years in prison for burglary after becoming involved in hustling and other criminal activities in Boston and New York. While in prison, he began to transform his life, educating himself by reading books on history, philosophy, and religion. In prison, his brother Reginald visited him and informed Malcolm about the Black Muslims. The Black Muslims were an Islamic religious organization whose leader was Elijah Muhammad at the time. X took interest in the religion and converted, putting himself on a course to become a minister.
He was released from prison at age 27 after serving 6 years. Soon after, Malcolm joined the fellowship of the Nation of Islam Community in Detroit and began going on recruiting expeditions. X has been said to have single-handedly tripled membership in Temple Number One within a few months of his efforts.
In December 1953, a little more than a year after he was paroled from prison, Malcolm was named the minister at the NOI’s Boston mosque, Temple No. 11. The following year he also became the minister at Temple No. 12 (Philadelphia) and Temple No. 7 (New York).
Malcolm then began traveling to the West Coast to head more temples. By the 1950s, Islam became a powerful presence in the ghettos of the U.S.’s largest cities thanks largely to X’s energy and hard work. He encouraged his audiences to use rational thinking and find clear headed solutions to their problems and racial tensions, as well as criticized nonviolent protest methods, as they usually required blacks to risk their bodies and lives. While he didn’t advocate for violent protest methods, he did call for blacks to defend themselves when attacked. Malcolm’s more militant ideas attracted advocates from the ghettos, who held rallies on the streets of Harlem.
In 1961, X founded ‘Muhammed Speaks’; the official journal of Islam under X, which became one of the most widely spread newspapers produced by a black organization. Starting in the 1960s, Malcolm was requested to take part in numerous debates, television programs, and give speeches at universities. By 1963, Malcolm X was reported as the second most wanted speaker in the United States by the New York Times. In 1963 Malcolm lead one of America’s largest civil rights rallies, the Unity Rally in Harlem. Malcolm’s declaration that President John F. Kennedy’s assassination was “the chickens coming home to roost” as well as his untraditional preaching style ultimately led to his suspension from the Black Muslims in December 1963. X then permanently left the Islam movement in 1964 based on their general neutrality in the involvement of confronting racism, and he announced the formation of the Muslim Mosque soon after. Malcolm then traveled to Mecca, giving speeches and meeting with Arab officials and scholars.
There, he discovered that orthodox Muslims preach equality of the races, which led him to abandon his claims of black superiority. Having returned to America as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, he remained convinced that racism had impaired the essence of America. In 1964, he formed the Organization of African-American Unity and returned to Africa.
While there, Malcolm was accorded observer status at the Heads of States Summit Conference at the OAU and made a presentation about the importance of aiding struggles of Africans and African Americans, and the conference passed a resolution deploring racism in the United States. When X returned to the U.S., he continued to seek support for issue of American racism before the World Court and United Nations, advocating for the political and economic control of black communities by African Americans. Also in 1964, Malcolm delivered “The Ballot or the Bullet” at Cory Methodist Church in Cleveland, Ohio.
In this speech, he described how powerful a weapon the ballot could be, if it was exercised with care, saying “A ballot is like a bullet. You don’t throw your ballots until you see a target, and if that target is not within your reach, keep your ballot in your pocket.” Malcolm also said that the proper step in fighting racism was to elevate the struggle of African Americans from one of civil rights to one of human rights.
A fight for civil rights was a internal issue, and “no one from the outside world can speak out in your behalf as long as your struggle is a civil-rights struggle”. Soon after this, Malcolm’s autobiography was published. In 1965, Malcolm’s House was firebombed. He and his family survived but their home was burned to the ground, and no one was charged with any crime. Right after beginning of the address at the Audubon Ballroom, at 3:10 pm, X was shot several times and was pronounced dead on arrival at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. Three Black Muslims were later convicted of the murder.
In conclusion, Malcolm X was a figure of great significance in advancing civil rights in the United States.Malcolm became an influential leader of the Nation of Islam, initially combining Islam with black nationalism and helped to empower disadvantaged blacks searching for equality in segregated America. Through the bold teachings of Malcolm X, African-Americans gained a greater awareness of the horrific atrocities committed against them by whites throughout the history of America and specifically during the civil rights movement. Issues such as racial violence and inequality were exposed by the teachings of the Nation of Islam, positively impacting the civil rights movement as well as educating many others. Malcolm X provided a tenacious example to African-Americans of someone who was willing to defend the basic rights of the race.