Malcolm X: Some Details about His Life
When the controversial Black activist and leader Malcolm X was assassinated on Feb. 21, 1965, the news made the next day’s front page of the Aberdeen American-News. Included on that front page was another article providing some biographical details about Malcolm X. The final line of this article contains a quote from Malcolm X that presents a chilling premonition of his fate: he was in fact assassinated by Black Muslims—just as he warned.
That biographical article was published by the Aberdeen American-News (Aberdeen, South Dakota) on the front page of its Feb. 22, 1965, issue:
‘Don’t Eat Pork’ Starts Transition
New York (AP)—In the late ’40s, a young Negro convict in the state prison at Charlestown, Mass., got a letter from his brother urging him: “Don’t eat any more pork.”
“I tried it and I did it, and for the first time in a long while I began to get a little feeling of self-respect,” the young convict later recalled.
So began the transformation of Malcolm Little—who learned the city Negro’s ways in Boston and Harlem, who went from peddling marijuana to collecting numbers game slips to large-scale burglary to keep a dope habit—into Malcolm X, the loudest and one of the most effective voices of the black nationalist movement.
The advice against eating pork was part of a campaign by Malcolm’s brother Reginald and sister Ella to lead the youngster into their new-found religion—the Creed of Islam as taught by Elijah Muhammad. Muhammad said he had received Allah’s message and divine guidance by way of a Detroit silk-seller named W. D. Fard.
In an autobiography appearing in September in the Saturday Evening Post, Malcolm X recalled two early but still-vivid memories—watching the family home in Lansing, Mich., burn down after white men set fire to it; and the mother’s screams when they brought her the news that his father had been killed in a trolley accident.
Malcolm was born in Omaha, Neb., May 19, 1925.
“My mother, who was born in Grenada, in the British West Indies, looked like a white woman. Her father was white. Of this white devil father of hers, I know nothing except her shame about it. I hate every drop of that white rapist’s blood in me.”
In Milwaukee, Wis., and Lansing, Mich., his father, the Rev. Earl Little, continued to spread the “back to Africa” teachings of the then-famous Marcus Garvey—until his enemies left him half-dead on the trolley tracks.
Later in life, he was sent to a detention home at Mason, Mich., and while in high school was elected class president. Eventually, he lived with his sister Ella in Boston and began his descent to vice and crime and a 10-year term in prison.
He had a five-year affair, he says, with a white woman—a “Beacon Hill chick”—and went from shining shoes to jerking sodas, became a hotel busboy, then a waiter on the New Haven Railroad—and learned to straighten his red hair, wear zoot suits, drink and smoke marijuana.
The railroad job was between Boston and New York, and soon young Malcolm Little was a regular customer at Harlem night spots. A little later he quit the railroad to take a waiter’s job in Harlem.
Malcolm X “sold reefers like a wild man,” then got a job riding a bus across the George Washington Bridge, picking up a bag of numbers slips, and riding the next bus back. When he collected his own $300 winnings on a number and the runner claimed he hadn’t “combinated” the right number, Malcolm had to head back to Boston.
By then, he recalled in his autobiography, he was on a cocaine habit that cost $20 a day, and had to organize a burglary ring with several Boston friends to pay for it.
Malcolm Little was not quite 21 when he went to prison. When he came out he was a solid convert to Muslimism.
Malcolm wrote to Elijah, who replied and enclosed $5. When he was paroled from prison in 1952, after serving about six and a half years, he went to live with a brother in Detroit and quickly joined a “mosque.” He heard Elijah in person during a mosque caravan to Chicago and was “galvanized.” He applied for and got his X, to “replace the white-slave-master name which had been imposed upon my paternal forebears by some blue-eyed devil.”
When he married Sister Betty X, a nursing student from Detroit, it was after Elijah had looked her over and approved. But the marriage ceremony was not recalled happily by Malcolm.
“An old hunchbacked white devil performed the wedding,” he wrote. “And all of the witnesses were devils.”
Visit to Mecca
Malcolm’s pilgrimage to Mecca last year led him to the belief that some white men could practice “true brotherhood,” but he summed up his attitude toward American politics like this:
“It’s just a question of Johnson, the fox, or Goldwater, the wolf. ‘Conservatism’ is only meaning ‘let’s keep the niggers in their place,’ and ‘liberalism’ is meaning ‘let’s keep the knee-grows in their place, but tell them we’ll treat them a little better.’
“Once I was a racist—yes,” he wrote. “But now I have turned my direction away from anything that’s racist.
“So, some of the followers of Elijah Muhammad would still consider it a first-rank honor to kill me.”
For more information, visit the Malcolm X Official Website.
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