Malcolm X

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Given to him by his mother, Louise Little, Malcolm Little is the biological name that Malcolm X was born with. On May 19, 1925 at University Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska Malcolm breathed life into his lungs. While still an infant, Malcolm’s family moves to Lansing, Michigan. In the early years of Malcolm’s life, the Little’s home is set afire and is burned to the ground. The following month, Malcolm’s father rebuilds their home on the outskirts of Lansing. Six years is how old Malcolm was when his father, the Rev. Earl Little, a Baptist minister and former supporter of the black nationalist Marcus Garvey, died after a hit and run by a streetcar. He was found lying across the town’s trolley tracks; allegedly he was murdered by the Black Legion, a local white supremacist group. The surviving family was so poor that Malcolm’s mother resorted to cooking dandelion greens on the street to feed the mouths of her children. After the death of her husband, Louise suffered many years from emotional breakdowns. January 9, 1939, Louis Little was declared legally insane and was formally committed to the State Mental Hospital at Kalamazoo, where she remained for twenty years. Malcolm and his siblings were split up amongst foster homes and orphanages. Lansing, Michigan is where Malcolm attended school. He was an intelligent, focused student and he graduated from junior high at the top of his class. However, when Malcolm told his favorite teacher that his dream was to become a lawyer his teacher replied with, “that is no realistic goal for a nigger.” The teacher suggested that he become a carpenter instead of a lawyer; after hearing those devastating words Malcolm lost interest in school and eventually dropped out of the eighth grade. As a rebellious teen, Malcolm moved from Michigan State Detention Home, a juvenile home in Mason, Mich., to live with an older half-sister from his father’s first marriage. After spending some time in Boston working various odd jobs, Malcolm then traveled to Harlem, New York where he committed petty crimes and became involved in criminal activities. “Detroit Red” for the reddish tinge in his hair, Malcolm became a drug dealer, a street hustler, and leader of a gang of thieves in Roxbury and Harlem, New York City. By 1942, Malcolm was coordinating various narcotics, prostitution and gambling rings. "...Early in life, I had learned that if you want something, you had better make some noise." Moved back to Boston in 1946 is what Malcolm and his buddy Malcolm “Shorty” Jarvis where they were arrested and convicted on burglary charges, and Malcolm was sentenced to 10 years in prison, in the city of Charleston. He was paroled after serving seven years. Reminiscing on his days in school, Malcolm further used his time to further educate himself. At this time he also underwent a conversion that eventually led him to join the Nation of Islam (NOI), an African-American movement that combined elements of Islam with Black Nationalism. His decision to join the NOI was influenced by discussions with his brother Reginald, who was incarcerated with Malcolm in the Norfolk Prison Colony in Massachusetts in 1948. Malcolm quit all his bad habits, including smoking and gambling. He refused to eat pork to follow the Nation’s dietary restrictions. Spending long hours reading books in the prison library, and even memorizing a dictionary were the steps that Malcolm took to educate himself. Malcolm replaced his last name, “Little,” with an “X,” a custom among the Nation of Islam followers who consider their names to be originally given to them by their white slaveholders. The teachings of NOI leader, Elijah Muhammad, are what Malcolm began to study. Muhammad taught that the white society worked actively to keep African-Americans from empowering themselves. Muhammad also taught that the white society worked to keep African-Americans from achieving political power, economic and social success. Amongst other goals, the NOI...
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