• Kamari Jordan

El-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz: A Man Seeking the Truth

Malcolm X was an African American leader that “articulated concepts of race pride and black nationalism in the 1950’s and 60’s.” You may know him best for his quote, “By any means necessary.” To end the explanation of who Malcolm X was here would serve no justice to his legacy. Malcolm X, more than anyone I have ever studied, was seeking the truth. Whether that truth demonized him or proved him wrong was of no concern to him, to find the truth was his ultimate goal. Before he was assassinated, he made major changes to his separatist beliefs and ideologies.

Photo courtesy of College of Arts and Sciences - University of Colorado Boulder

Malcolm Little was born May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska. The Littles’ home was burned down by white supremacist organization, Black Legion. Two years later, Malcolm’s father was found dead across train tracks. Police ruled both the fire that burned down the Littles’ home and the death of Malcolm’s father an accident. After the murder of Malcolm’s father, his mother Louise’s mental stability was on a decline and she was committed to a mental institution. The children were split among various orphanages and foster homes. Malcolm would return to Boston with his friend Shorty years later and by then he was a drug addict as well as a drug dealer. He also struggled with accepting his African roots and religion.

In 1946, Malcolm was sentenced to 10 years in prison. His Brother Reginald followed Elijah Muhammad and was a member of the Nation of Islam. When he came to visit Malcolm in prison, he urged him to join. The Nation of Islam under Elijah Muhammad’s rule was a Separatist group. Elijah thought that Blacks should have a separate state from the White people and that white society was actively working to keep Black people from empowering themselves and achieving political, economic and social success.

In prison, Malcolm got clean, found religion, educated himself and found self-enlightenment. Malcolm was granted parole after serving 7 years and joined the Nation of Islam. After being paroled in 1952, Malcolm changed his name to “Malcolm X,” explaining that “Little” was his slave name and the “X” represented his tribal name. With his new moniker, Malcolm X was appointed minister and national spokesman for the Nation of Islam. By utilizing media, Malcolm X increased the membership of the Nation of Islam from 500 to 30,000 in 11 years.

His influence had overshadowed his leader Elijah Muhammad and had leaders in government shook as well. FBI agents infiltrated the organization as well as groups close to Malcolm X. Malcolm X’s faith took a major blow when he learned that Elijah Muhammad had relations with six women in the Nation of Islam that resulted in children. Malcolm refused to help Elijah cover up his affairs and was “silenced” by Elijah.

In 1964, Malcolm X terminated his relationship with the Nation of Islam and founded Muslim Mosque, Inc. He took pilgrimage to Mecca and exchanged thoughts and beliefs with Muslims of different cultures, races, and ethnicities. He had found people with blonde hair and blue eyes that he could call brother and as a result he returned to America with a new outlook on integration and hope. After his pilgrimage, he had a message for all races instead of exclusively for Black audiences and along with this new message he also had a new name, el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz. The name was symbolic of his spiritual journey to Orthodox Islam. He was marked for assassination by the government and the Nation of Islam. An undercover officer was even ordered to help plant the bomb in his car. A week after his house was firebombed, while at a speaking engagement, Malcolm was shot 15 times at close range. At 39-years-old he was assassinated.

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