Timeline of Malcolm X: Biography

Martin Luther King and Malcolm X Debate

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Malcolm X in March, 1964, Born: Malcolm Little, May 19, 1925, Omaha, Nebraska
Died: February 21, 1965 (aged 39), New York City



1923- Earl and Louise Little move with their three small children to Omaha, Nebraska, 3448 Pinkney Street.

1924- The Ku Klux Klansmen warned Louise, then pregnant with Malcolm, to get her family out of town, because her husband was stirring up trouble in the black community with UNIA (Universal Negro Improvement Association) back to Africa  preaching. They were activist supporters of Marcus Garveys black-nationalist organization the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Reverend Little helped organize the UNIA.

1925-  Malcolm Little is born at University Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska.  1926 The Little family moves to Milwaukee, Wisconsin after threats by night riders.

1928- The Little family purchased a home in Lansing, Michigan, and less than two years later the house was destroyed by fire.

1931- Earl Little was found dead in 1931, most likely the victim of racist violence. Malcolm was sent to Boston, then to New York City, where he committed burglary. While serving a six and one-half year prison sentence, he became self-educated and converted to an American sect of Islam.

1939- Malcolm mother struggled to keep the family together, she was institutionalized in a state mental hospital, where she would remain for a quarter century.

1941- Malcolms half-sister on his fathers side, Ella Collins, brought the teenager to her home in Boston, Massachusetts.

1946- Known on the streets as Big Red” and Detroit Red he entered the underground economy of the ghetto, running numbers and selling liquor and illegal drugs. Malcolm Little was arrested and charge with grand larceny and breaking and entering. He was sentenced to prison in Charlestown, Massachusetts, and would live behind bars until his release six and a half years later.

1947- At the Concord Reformatory prison, in Massachusetts, to which he had been transferred. He was introduced to a black-nationalist Islamic sect, the Nation of Islam, during a visit by his younger brother, Reginald. Malcolm joined the sect and began a frequent correspondence with its leader, Elijah Muhammad, formerly Robert Poole.

1952- Paroled from prison, he took the surname X, which stood for the lost true name of his African ancestors.

1953- He lived briefly in the home of Elijah Muhammad, and quickly rose in the hierarchy of the sect. He was named minister of the newly established Boston Temple No. 11 in the fall of that year and became the minister of New Yorks Temple No. 7 in June 1954. He initiated and directed the development of new temples in many cities and established a national newspaper, Muhammad Speaks.

1956- Malcolm X met Betty Sanders, a new convert who had joined Temple No. 7. Calling her from a gas station telephone in Detroit in early January 1958, his proposal of marriage to her. Two days later the two were married by a white Justice of the Peace in Lansing, Michigan. The newlyweds moved into a small two-family flat in the borough of Queens, New York and over the next seven years they had six daughters, Attalah, Qubilah, Ilyasah, Gamilah, Malaak and Malikah.

1958- Malcolm took the name Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz), studied under Elijah Muhammad, and became outspoken about mistreatment of blacks in the United States.

1959- He began reaching out to mainstream civil rights leaders and black elected officials, such as the Harlem congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., in an effort to build a national black united front. A television documentary on the Nation of Islam, with the provocative title The Hate That Hate Produced brought the sect into national prominence. That same year Malcolm X visited Egypt, Iran, Syria, Ghana, Nigeria and Sudan. The early 1960′s he was actively involved in protesting police brutality against Black Muslim, the name the media gave members of the Nation.

1960- He met with Fidel Castro during the Cubans visit to the United Nations. He also led a demonstration at the United Nations to denounce the killing of the prime minister of the Congo, Patrice Lumumba.

1961-1963 He became a sought-after campus speaker, lecturing at Harvard Law School in March and many other institutions.  His high profile brought him under intense surveillance by Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies and fed hostility and resentment among Nation of Islam leaders close to Elijah Muhammad, who feared that Malcolm X had grown too powerful to control.

1963- When President John F. Kennedys was assassinated in November, Malcolm X remarked to the media that the Chief Executives murder was a case of the chickens coming home to roost, symbolizing white Americas tendency to violence and hatred. Elijah Muhammad use the public controversy as an excuse for expelling his powerful soldier from the Nation of Islam. Malcolm X was first ordered to submit to a 90-day period of silence. That same month, he called a press conference and resigned from
the sect.

1964- His Autobiography of Malcolm X was published in 1964.  Leaving the United States during a pilgrimage to Mecca in April 13, he converted to Orthodox Islam. He abandoned concepts of racial antagonism and counseled the need for human brotherhood and international cooperation. Malcolm X formed the Organization of Afro-American Unity in 1964 and became renowned as an articulate spokesperson for human rights. Like Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X was known as one of the most outstanding orators of his day.

1965- In early February the former black separatist traveled to Alabama to address and encourage young activists involved in a voting right campaign. He tried to meet with King during this trip, but the civil rights leader was in jail; instead Malcolm met with Coretta Scott King, telling her that he did not intend to make life more difficult for her husband.  If white people realize what the alternative is, perhaps they will willing to hear Dr. King.  Malcolm X was assassinated February 21, 1965, in New York City at the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan at the age of 39, he had been a prominent public figure for less than a decade.

1970- Dr. Betty Shabazz commented about her husbands journey to Mecca, and his return to the Unites States a little over a month later as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz:

When [Malcolm] returned he has a new perspective. Part
of it, I think, was the human experience of seeing people
from different countries functioning together because of a
common philosophy . . . . Malcolms basic goal or
objective never changed: He was totally committed to
freedom for oppressed people . . . Malcolms [new]
feeling was that if a group has an answer to the problems
of black people, than they should help solve the problems
without having all black people join that group. In this
sense his scope had been broadened.



Only days after the assassination, Bayard Rustin, the architect of the 1963 March on Washington, wrote: Now that he is dead, we must resist the temptation to idealize Malcolm X, to elevate charisma to greatness. Malcolm X is not a hero of the movement, he is a tragic victim of the ghetto. . . White America, not the Negro people, will determine Malcolms role in history.

Only days following Malcolm X’s assassination, Elijah Muhammad denounced his former soldier as a hypocrite whose foolish teaching brought him to his own end.

“He sharply criticized Martin Luther Kings philosophy of nonviolence, and ridiculed the 1963 March on Washington as nothing but picnic, a circus.

If capitalistic Kennedy and communistic Khruchchev can find something in common on which to form a United front despite their tremendous ideological differences, he wrote in a 1963 letter to Dr. King, inviting him to a rally in Harlem, it is a disgrace for Negro leaders not to be able to submerge our minor differences in order to seek a common solution to a common problem posed by a Common Enemy.

Soon after his departure from the Nation of Islam, he created tow new organization: Muslim Mosque, Inc., a spiritual refuge for former Nation of Islam members and others, to reach out to the orthodox Islamic community; and the Organization of Afro-American Unity, a black-nationalist group that sought to overcome the ideological and political divisions within black America.

The first phase of the remaking of Malcolm X occurred in late 1965 with the publication of The Autobiography of Malcolm X written with the assistance of the journalist Alex Haley. He wrote: The American black man should be focusing his every effort toward building his own businesses, and decent homes for himself. As other ethnic groups have done, let the black people, wherever possible, however possible, patronize their own kind, hire their own kind, and start in those ways to build up the black races ability to do for itself. That’s the only way the American black man is every going to get respect.  The Autobiography of Malcolm X sold nearly three million copies over the next 35 years. In 1999 Time magazine named it one of the ten most influential works of nonfiction of the century.

On January 20, 1999, when the stamp bearing Malcolm X’s image was unveiled in front of a jubilant audience of fifteen hundred people at Harlems historic Apollo Theater. Malcolm X, after all, had been illegally wiretapped, his private conversations recorded, his mail opened, and his organizations disrupted by a U.S. government that critics felt Malcolm X would have disapproved of even today.

As the white attorney William Kuntsler observed in 1994: I like Malcolm would be a fire-eater, burning with hatred, with no sense of humor. He was actually quite the opposite, a warm, responsive human being, not at all as he was depicted by the media . . . He spent most of his public life trying to convince his black audiences that they had to resist the white avalanche by any means necessary. A failure to resist, he often said, was part of a residual slave mentality. I completely agreed with him.

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