Though long after his death, Malcolm X is among the most important figures in African-American society and in American political and social history (Lincoln, 1973). He was the spokesperson for empowerment of the Black and fought for justice and humanity of African-American people. In this essay I am going to discuss the life and true historical legacy of Malcolm X/ El-Hajj Malik El-Shabbazz and his major ideas in fighting against racism, exploitation and oppression of the Blacks. I will also look at the way he revolutionized Islam among the black society.
Haley et al (2001) assert that Malcolm X was born on May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Neb. He was the seventh born in a family of eleven children. His family moved to Lansing, Mich where they were harassed by whites. At the age of only 6, his father was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan. Afterwards, his mother suffered a nervous breakdown and as a result, welfare agencies separated his family. He grew up with a belief that the whites were bad because they destroyed his family. Malcolm always wanted to become a lawyer but while at school, he was told by a teacher that he should learn carpentry instead, for being black. He was very much discouraged to a point of dropping out of school after the eighth grade.
He therefore moved to Boston to stay with a relative, Mass. While here, he could shine shoes, work in a restaurant, at a soda foundation and on a railroad kitchen crew. He then shifted to New York City in the black Harlem section in 1942, living as a hustler, making money through cheating. He could sell drugs and consequently became a drug addict. He went back to Boston for being pursued by a rival hustler. While in Boston, he organized a burglary ring and later in 1946, he was detained for burglary. It is while serving his sentence in prison that Malcolm adopted Islam as his religion. He practiced this in a group referred to as Nation of Islam. The group emphasized ethical conduct with other African Americans; they however described white people as ‘devils’ in their teaching (Haley et al, 2001).
He joined his younger brother in Detroit, Mich up on release from prison in 1952 and in Muslim fashion he replaced his slave name with X as a symbol of loosing his true African family to the whites.
It is believed that while in prison he learnt about Islam in a wrong way because started using his hustler methods to win people and convert them into Islam. He came to learn about true Islam when he went to Mecca.
Throughout his life as an activist, Malcolm X was a sharp critic of America’s system that instigated immense racism, domination, oppression, and exploitation of Africa and the third world. In his voice, there is a renewed expression in a fresh generation which gets the persistent reality of poverty, racism, oppression, racism for African people in American unbearable (Lincoln, 1973). There was an elevated power fighting, particularly among youth African- American. The fighting spirit of Malcolm consequently, is a living symbol of a new degree of militancy, commitment and empowerment among the African-American society.
Malcolm X was Black Nationalist that struggled for freedom, tradition and heritage of the Black. He fought for full democracy and civil rights in America through fighting to eliminate any barriers that could make the black be seen as inferior. He supported social justice in the society of white majority.
Haley et al (2001) observe that on religious grounds, Malcolm X was a charismatic spokesperson of Nation of Islam after being recruited by Elijah Muhammad. It was a result of being thoroughly and carefully nurtured that Malcolm X career entered into the organization’s hierarchy, becoming the minister of Harlem’s Temple NO. 7, in 1955. In the late 1950, he widely traveled throughout the United States of America to deliver what he believed was the truth to liberate his people.
The influence of Malcolm X made so many people to convert to Islam and start relating to Nation of Islam because of Elijah Muhammad’s total control of many thousands of legible voters. This was due to a belief that they represented a big block of political power. Malcolm’s both political and spiritual influence saw a lot of prominent figures approaching him including Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., who was the most famous Black elected official of the period attending a leadership conference that was organized by Malcolm X in Harlem in 1960. Another prominent leader was Fidel Castro who met with him the same year talk about politics (Lincoln, 1973).
Through the work of Malcolm X, many Black-American were converted to Islam. The Nation of Islam grew tremendously, assuming a great deal of leadership with millions of them looking at the nation with respect. For this we can see how important Malcolm was in revolutionizing Islam.