Malcolm Little, born in Omaha, USA, is the son of a Baptist carpenter, who died in 1931. Malcolm is convinced that his father was killed by militants close to the Ku Klux Klan. He was imprisoned in 1946 for delinquency. While in prison, he discovered Nation of Islam, a political-religious organization advocating African-American nationalism, corresponded with its leader Elijah Muhammad and converted to Islam.
Upon his release from prison in 1952, Malcolm Little took the nickname Malcolm X because he said he did not know his real name, Little being the name of the master of one of his slave ancestors. He became an activist of the organization Nation of Islam (called Black Muslins in the press), a sectarian Muslim movement, marked by black nationalism and the rejection of the white man, considered exploitative, slave and capitalist. He was appreciated for his oratorical skills and quickly became the spokesperson for the organization. He preached black separatism and championed the idea of creating an independent black republic within the United States.
In March 1964, no longer getting along with Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X left Nation of Islam, which was only a religious and non-political movement. He converted to Orthodox Sunni Islam and founded his own religious organization, The Muslim Mosque Inc. He rejects the integration of blacks and refuses to condemn the violence of the oppressed.
In April 1964, he made a pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj) and on his return he called himself El-Hajj Malek El-Shabazz. He condemned the anti-white racism of the Nation of Islam and founded the Organization for African-American Unity, a non-religious political movement, making the unity of all blacks his priority.
After being the subject of several threats, Malcolm X was assassinated on 21 February 1965 during a public speech by activists of The Nation of Islam. Considered a fanatic by nonviolent blacks, Malcolm X inspired, through his ideas, the Black Panther Party founded in 1966.
Malcolm X is one of four great icons of African-American movements to abolish racial discrimination in the United States with Rosa Parks, Daisy Bates and Martin Luther King for the period from 1954 to 1965. Unlike the other three, he stirred controversy, some loved him, adored him and made him an exemplary hero of the cause of African-Americans, while others hated him and made him a traitor who deserved his assassination of February 21, 1965, certainly the same, close to the white supremacists, who lynched his father by pushing him under a streetcar.
A talented orator with a brilliant and intuitive mind, as well as a great moral and intellectual probity, the former leader of the “Nation of Islam” was not content with incantatory speeches, his tireless commitment to the service of his community and human rights reflected the personality of a courageous man always driven by strong convictions.
In 1992 the American director Spike Lee shot a biopic about Malcolm X with Denzel Washington in the title role. In 2010, the film was listed on the National Film Registry and kept in the U.S. Library of Congress for its “cultural, historical or aesthetic significance.”
His assassination, along with those of the Kennedy brothers and that of Martin Luther King, all perpetrated in the space of 5 years, from 1963 to 1968, remains a mystery today about the origin and motivations of their sponsors. Many personalities are calling for re-openings of investigations more than 50 years later.