Today, February 21, 2017 marks the 52nd anniversary of the assassination of one of the most iconic leaders of the 20th century, Malcolm X El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz.
THE MAN CALLED MALCOLM X
Malcolm was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1925. His father was killed in a mysterious train accident and his mother was committed to a mental institution. Without a rosy background, he was convicted of multiple crimes, and sentenced by a Massachusetts court to ten years in prison. There he met a long-serving ex-thief who introduced him to the prison’s uncommonly well-stocked library, which became his “university.” It was there that his intellectual odyssey began. He read everything, from philosophy, history, and fiction to the words (all of them, in alphabetical order) in the Merriam-Webster College Dictionary. He also encountered the sacred texts of Christianity and Islam, and, in 1948, was converted to the faith of the Nation of Islam, the Black Muslims.
Released from prison in 1952, Malcolm went to Chicago to meet Elijah Mohammed, leader of theBlack Muslim movement, and then moved to Detroit, working at various industrial jobs and becoming increasingly engaged in Muslim activities. Ultimately he became a minister in the Nation of Islam, preaching in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. With Malcolm often the spur, the Nation of Islam grew from a small religious sect based around Chicago and Detroit to an important national force among primarily northern urban blacks. Its mosques became centers of a culturally enriched life.
From 1952 to 1963 Malcolm oversaw the Nation of Islam’s rise in numbers, prestige, and influence. At the same time, Malcolm was increasingly attacked in white media as a purveyor of hate for standing for black racial autonomy. In his view, consistent with the black pride stance of the Muslims, racial separateness was better than some vague promise of equality.
Malcolm never stopped, he was courageous. In a move reminiscent of the 1952 petition against black genocide brought to the UN by Paul Robeson and William L. Patterson of the left-wing Civil Rights Congress, Malcolm reached out to other black groups, progressive and radical white organizations, and newly-independent African states to bring black people’s complaints before the international body. He also began working with these groups on their issues: voter registration and black and community control of such institutions as schools and the police.
Malcolm spoke widely and indefatigably throughout 1964 and early 1965. He was now seen by friends and enemies alike as a true threat to the system and the class that imposed it. They show an ongoing fear of Malcolm as an actual and potential leader of a black America independent of the norms of subservience and coercion and, most frighteningly, connected to the storm of movements for change worldwide.
Malcolm X was gunned down in the early afternoon of a chilly February 21, 1965, as he addressed a meeting in Harlem’s Audubon Ballroom. The circumstances of Malcolm’s assassination remain murky to this day.
Malcolm X’s legacy is ongoing. Scholarship on Malcolm X abounds and has been produced by many scholars in/and from different fields. As a result, there are many academic Malcolm X representations, readings, and interpretations, and with many great figures in human history, their legacy is more and something other than that great person’s biography.
Malcolm X represented century freedom and equality struggles. The continuing significance of his ideas, principles and critiques as a radical African American, Muslim, and global intellectual remains memorable.
REMEMBER HIS WORDS
“Our success in America will involve two circles: Black Nationalism and Islam–it will take BN [Black Nationalism] to make our people conscious of doing for self & then Islam will provide the spiritual guidance. BN [Black Nationalism] will link us to Africa and Islam will link us spiritually to Africa, Arabia & Asia.” —Malcolm X
“I believe in a religion that believes in freedom. Any time I have to accept a religion that won’t let me fight a battle for my people, I say to hell with that religion.” — Malcolm X
“America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem. Throughout my travels in the Muslim world, I have met, talked to, and even eaten with people who in America would have been considered white, but the white attitude was removed from their minds by the religion of Islam. I have never before seen sincere and true brotherhood practiced by all together, irrespective of their color.” — Malcolm X
“You can’t have capitalism without racism.” — Malcolm X
“If we react to white racism with a violent reaction, to me that’s not Black racism. If you come to put a rope around my neck, and I hang you for it, to me that’s not racism. Yours is racism….My reaction is the reaction of a human being reacting to defend and protect himself.” —Malcolm X
“They want you to be nonviolent here, but they want you to be very violent in South Vietnam.” —Malcolm X
Credit: John J. Simon – Monthly Review(MR)