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Malcolm X was born as Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska in 1925. He was raised in a series of foster homes and had a troubled early life. He spent several years in prison, where he became a member of the Nation of Islam- a radical Muslim movement focused on Black supremacy. After his release from prison, he took up work as a social activist. He spoke publicly on behalf of the Nation of Islam, often with much hatred for white people, who he believed were the root of evil in the world. He also promoted social reform and aid for people who struggle in society, such as free drug rehabilitation programs and access to quality education.

Though Malcolm X is remembered for his advocating for Black Americans, he was opposed to certain aspects of the Civil Rights Movement because it promoted the integration of People of Color into the (white) society which had treated them so poorly. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Malcolm X grew to disagree with the teachings of the Nation of Islam and the direction the organization was moving in. Instead he converted to Sunni Islam and began to feel that equality among all people was possible- even for People of Color- and that Islam was the way to achieve this peace.

Malcolm X spoke publicly on Islam and traveled throughout the Middle East and Africa with the goal of establishing a sense of global Afro-Muslim unity. In the United States, he spoke at many colleges as well as for the Organization for Afro-American Unity. He was criticized by both the general public and his former members of the Nation of Islam for his beliefs. In February of 1965, Malcolm X was shot and killed by members of the Nation of Islam.

Today we remember him for his work in advocating for Black Americans and improving the image of and relations with the Muslim community in America and around the world. He helped to create a dialogue about race, religion, and unity where previously there was only oppression. His work and autobiography still resonate with many Americans, as the fight for equality persists to this day.

Read the study guide:
The Autobiography of Malcolm X

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