Malcolm Little was born in Omaha, Nebraska and spent his early childhood in Lansing, Michigan. His father Earl Little was a highly-regarded Baptist minister and a follower of Marcus Garvey, the leader of the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Out of envy and racial hatred, Little was killed by a group of white supremacists, when they arranged for him to be run over by a streetcar. Malcolm's mother, Louise Little, was left alone and too impoverished to raise her large family on her own. She had a mental breakdown. The children went into foster care shortly after she was committed to a psychiatric facility.
The white men who killed Malcolm Little's father were never brought to justice. This taught him that, where black people are concerned, the American legal system is unconcerned with infringements on their rights to life and property. His father's life did not matter to the legal authorities in Michigan. Later in life, Malcolm would experience more personal encounters with the racism of the police, which routinely committed acts of brutality, and the court systems, which handed out harsher sentences to black criminals.
In eighth-grade, Malcolm expressed interest in becoming a lawyer and was quickly discouraged by a white school teacher who assured him that black people (it is more likely that he used the pejorative "niggers") cannot be lawyers. He encouraged Malcolm to become a carpenter instead, using the example of Jesus Christ. Shortly thereafter, Malcolm lost interest in school and dropped out. From this, he learned that, no matter how well he excelled at his studies, whites were determined not to let him succeed or create a life for himself. Later, when Malcolm engages in self-instruction while in prison, including studying the dictionary and reading Will and Ariel Durant's History of Civilization series, he learns how school systems and other institutions manipulate black people into accepting white supremacy and their debased status and a natural way of life.