The student news site of Millbrook High School

Cat Talk

The student news site of Millbrook High School

Cat Talk

The student news site of Millbrook High School

Cat Talk

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Malcolm X: Any Means Necessary

The life, death, and renegade nature of the Civil Rights Movement’s most radical activist
Malcolm+X%3A+Any+Means+Necessary

Throughout the era of the Civil Rights Movement that went on from the 1950’s to 1960’s there were 6 big and commonly known leaders: Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, A. Phillip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, and Whitney Young, who all helped shape the movement through means of sit-ins, freedom rides, legislation, and peaceful protests. However, there is one leader of the Civil Rights Movement that remained an outlier among the rest of them in his means of action, and his name was Malcolm X. He believed that the peaceful protests for civil rights were ultimately futile and instead fought for freedom, justice, and independence by any means necessary

 

Born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska to Louise Helen Little and Earl Little on May 19, 1925, the fourth of seven brothers, he was surrounded by pan-Africanism from a very young age. His father was a local leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and his mother was a branch reporter that sent news of local UNIA activity to the black magazine “Negro World”. In 1926, the family moved to Milwaukee due to threats by the Ku Klux Klan and accusations that Earl’s activities in the UNIA were “spreading trouble”. In Milwaukee, they were targeted and harassed by the white supremacist group, “the Black Legion,” and Earl accused them of burning his family home in 1929. 

 

At age six, Malcolm’s father was killed in what was ruled as a car accident, though his mother believed it was at the hands of the Black Legion. In 1937, a man Malcolm’s mother had been dating at the time ran away after she became pregnant with his child, resulting in his mother suffering from a nervous breakdown in which she was committed to Kalamazoo State Hospital. Malcolm and his siblings were separated and sent to foster homes. 

 

Malcolm went from one school to another but excelled in Mason High School in Mason, Michigan. He had aspirations to be a practitioner in the law but dropped out in 1941 after a white teacher told him it was, “no realistic goal for a ni**er.” 

 

From ages 14 to 21, he worked various jobs while living in Roxbury, Boston and later moved to Harlem where he engaged in crimes such as gambling, robbery, drug dealing, and pimping. and eventually earned the title, “Detroit Red”. In 1945 when Malcom returned to Boston, he and four other accomplices committed a series of burglaries on wealthy white families that resulted in a prison sentence of eight to ten years for larceny and breaking and entering. It was in prison that he began to engage himself in the Nation of Islam. 

 

While in prison, he received letters from several of his siblings regarding the Nation of Islam, an African American movement that mixed Islamic beliefs with Black Nationalism. Although at first skeptical of the movement’s philosophy that white people are devils, Malcolm became receptive to the idea when reflecting on his experiences with white individuals. In 1948, he wrote a letter to the leader of the movement, Elijah Muhammad. Muhammad told him to renounce his criminal past and violent behavior and to humbly pray to God. Malcolm struggled with praying at first but soon became a devoted member to the Nation of Islam. 

 

It was 1950 when Malcolm dropped his family name and began signing his name with “X”. He said that ‘X’ represented his true African name that he could never know and that replaced the “white slavemaster” name of “Little.” 

 

Malcolm X first gained recognition from the American public in 1957 in an incident where thousands of protesters gathered around a police station as Malcolm went inside and demanded that a member of the Nation of Islam, Hinton Johnson, be taken to the hospital after being severely beaten by the police. That incident led to one of the police officers saying to a newspaper, “No one man should have that much power.”

 

He was seen as a charismatic and articulate personality that expressed his black nationalism and bitterness towards white people through public speeches, interviews, and speakings at major universities like Oxford and Harvard. His keen wit, intellect, and intense radicalism made him a formidable opposition to white American society. He also expressed disdain for the mainstream civil rights movement and its notions of integration and non-violence. He believed in total independence, self-reliance, self-integrity, and self-defense “by any means necessary.” His radical beliefs and critique of American society later on helped shape the foundational beliefs for the Black Power movement in the late 60’s and 70’s. 

 

In 1963, tensions between Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad rose because of opposing views on the political direction of the Nation of Islam. Muhammad began to feel that Malcolm X was becoming a threat to his leadership, due to his extreme popularity. Malcolm X laterbrought bad publicity to Muhammad’s name by making public multiple counts of sexual misconduct and statutory rape by Muhammad. Tensions continued to rise until Malcolm X publicly announced his departure from the Nation of Islam on March 8, 1964. 

 

He still practiced the Islamic faith and founded Muslim Mosque, Inc. Malcom planned to establish a black nationalist organization and planned to work with other civil rights leaders. All the while, he was receiving multiple death threats from the Nation of Islam, and made reports to the media that the Nation of Islam was actively trying to kill him. When he was asked if he was afraid of dying, Malcom said, “I don’t worry, I’ll tell you. I’m a man who believed that I died 20 years ago, and I live like a man who is dead already. I have no fear whatsoever of anybody or anything.”

 

On February 21, 1965 Malcolm X was killed while delivering a lecture in the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights. He was shot in the chest with a sawed-off shotgun while investigating a disturbance in the crowd. Three members of the Nation of Islam were arrested: Talmadge Hayer, the man who shot Malcolm X, confessed to the crime and claimed the two accomplices, Norman 3X Butler, and Thomas 15X Johnson. Though the two men claimed to be innocent, all three were sentenced to murder and life and prison. 

 

The legacy of Malcolm X, lives on long after his death with his radical ideals still being related with and shared among civil rights groups today. Whether one will remember him as a strong fighter for black empowerment or a vigilante of his time, his association with black independence and integrity in the Afro-American community will not be forgotten. 

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About the Contributor
Amir Carraway
Amir Carraway, writer
I'm Amir Carraway, a sophomore. I'm in Newspaper 1 and I write political articles and things of that nature. I also write about stuff going on around campus sometimes, pretty much anything goes.

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