Malcolm X


Malcolm X
Oil, 1985, 56 x 42 inches

Malcolm X, clergyman, was born Malcolm Little in Nebraska in 1925. He spent much of his youth in foster homes and state institutions before he finished the eighth grade and left for Boston, where a half-sister lived. He became lost in a life of drugs and crime and was sentenced to ten years in prison by the time he became twenty-one. After learning to read and write while inside, he corresponded with Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Black Muslims.

By 1952, he was out on parole and speaking out about his belief that the white Christian world was intrinsically evil and dangerous, and that the only way for blacks to survive was to separate themselves from it. He adopted the name by which he is remembered, Malcolm X, and founded mosques in Philadelphia and Harlem. His increasingly radical statements led to his expulsion from the Black Muslim movement and to the formation of his own nationalist groups, the Muslim Mosque and the Organization of Afro-American Unity.

He was seen by friends and foes alike as an angry young man who took pride in his controversial social views including racial separation. He considered the nonviolence advocates to be utterly wrong, and he became famous for saying so. In this way, he helped the nonviolent movement by making it appear to be a more palatable alternative for moderate blacks and whites.

By 1965, Malcolm X had become slightly more moderate in his ownviews, after a 1964 pilgrimage to Mecca, when he was killed in New York City by members of a rival black group. His ‘Autobiography’ was published shortly after his death, and in 1992, a movie on his life was a popular success.

• March 14, 2016

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