Malcolm X

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Malcolm X

Malcolm X, 1925–65, militant black leader in the United States, also known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, b. Malcolm Little in Omaha, Neb. A petty criminal in Boston and Harlem, he was convicted of burglary (1946) and sent to prison, where he read widely and was introduced to the Black Muslims, joining the group and becoming a Muslim minister upon his release in 1952. A charismatic and eloquent spokesman for the doctrines of black nationalism and black separatism, he quickly became very prominent, establishing many new temples in the North, Midwest, and California, and acquiring a following perhaps equaling that of the movement's leader, Elijah Muhammad. In 1963 Malcolm was suspended by Muhammad after a speech in which Malcolm suggested that President Kennedy's assassination was a matter of the "chickens coming home to roost." He then formed a rival organization of his own, the Muslim Mosque, Inc. In 1964, after a pilgrimage to Mecca, he announced his conversion to orthodox Sunni Islam and his new belief that there could be brotherhood between black and white. In his Organization of Afro-American Unity, formed after his return, the tone was still that of militant black nationalism but no longer of separation. In Feb., 1965, he was shot and killed in a public auditorium in New York City. His assassins were vaguely identified as Black Muslims, but this remains a matter of controversy.

See his autobiography (as told to A. Haley, 1964) and selected speeches, Malcolm X Speaks (1965); biographies by P. Goldman (1973, repr. 2013), B. Perry (1992), and M. Marable (2011); study by M. E. Dyson (1994); J. H. Clarke, ed., Malcolm X (1969); J. L. Conyers et al., ed., Malcolm X: An Historical Reader (2008); R. E. Terrill, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Malcolm X (2010).

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