Malcolm X was most known for his activism in the civil rights movement. A vocal spokesman for the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X was also a minister and a supporter of Black nationalism.
While Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. had the same goals, their stance on how to handle the fight for equality differed. Martin Luther King Jr. was a peacemaker, while Malcolm X highly encouraged blacks to stand up against white aggression using any means necessary.
Malcolm X may have had a more aggressive stance than Martin Luther King Jr. did, but he had good reason. During his childhood, his family had been targeted by the Ku Klux Klan. When Malcolm X was about six years old, his father was murdered by a group of white supremacists that were known as the Black Legionaries. The authorities claimed that his father’s death was an accident.
The “X” in Malcolm’s name was an addition he came up with after discovering the teaching of Elijah Muhammad, who was the head of a group of Black nationalists that claimed white people were the devil. The addition of the “X” in Malcolm X was to show his rejection of slavery. He came across these teachings through the libraries available to him while he spent time in jail for burglary. It wasn’t until after his sentence had ended and he was released on parole that he became one of the most compelling leaders of his time.
After Malcolm was released in 1952, he met Elija Muhammad and joined the Nation of Islam. He became a minister at the Islam Temple Number Eleven, located in Roxbury. However, Malcolm X broke from this alliance in 1964 in order to convert to orthodox Islam after a trip to Mecca made him realize that people of all colors practiced Islam and that white people weren’t the devil.
As Malcolm X became an advocate for equality for all, the group of black nationalists that he had previously had an alliance with felt betrayed. He was later assassinated in 1965 by three men after many years of receiving death threats and his home being firebombed.