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  • Mary L. Hanna

In Honor of Malcolm X

Minister, Civil Rights Leader, Human Rights Activist

Guest Contributors: Tasneem Sultan and Eshe Lovely from Human Connections



Today, on May 19th of 2023, we celebrate the birthday of el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, better known as Malcolm X. Although Malcolm X’s legacy is well-known in the United States, he was often misunderstood and demonized both during and after his lifetime. Malcolm X was a minister, civil rights leader, and human rights activist who became a significant figure in American history.

In 1946, Malcolm X was sentenced to 10 years in jail for burglary. During his incarceration, he became much more knowledgeable by reading books from prominent writers like W.E.B. Du Bois and Harriet Beecher Stowe. He was also visited by his siblings, who introduced him to the Nation of Islam.

Malcolm X emerged from prison as an extraordinary writer and speaker. Soon after, he utilized his charisma and oratory skills to bring thousands of people under the umbrella of the Nation of Islam. As a supporter of black nationalism, he uplifted black people, taught them the importance of self-respect, and promoted dignity. Malcolm was never violent, nor did he preach violence, but he did believe that black people have the right to self-defense.

In Malcolm X's words, "Ignorance of each other is what has made unity impossible in the past. Therefore, we need enlightenment. We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience creates unity. Once we have more knowledge (light) about each other, we will stop condemning each other and a United front will be brought about."

Malcolm X is often compared to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. To many, Malcolm is as important as Dr. King, as they were both prominent figures during the Civil Rights movement. While they did have different beliefs, they shared a common goal. The media depicted them as opposing forces; one as a pacifist and the other as a violent political renegade. In reality, they were simply two activists with different methods, who were both integral to progress towards civil rights for Black Americans. Malcolm X even visited Selma in 1965, supporting Dr. King during his arrest.

James Baldwin, an American writer and voice of the Civil Rights movement wrote, "As concerns Malcolm and Martin, I watched two men, coming from unimaginably different backgrounds, whose positions, originally, were poles apart, driven closer and closer together. By the time each died, their positions had become virtually the same position. It can be said, indeed, that Martin picked up Malcolm's burden, articulated the vision which Malcolm had begun to see, and for which he paid with his life. And that Malcolm was one of the people Martin saw on the mountaintop."

Today, we remember Malcolm X as a sincere leader who chose the authentic path, lived with faith and dignity, and gave his life fighting for justice.


Sources:

  • “Malcolm X Biography.” Biography.Com, 3 Apr. 2014, www.biography.com/activists/malcolm-x.

  • Turner, Page. “15 Books Malcolm X Read in Prison.” Radical Reads, 18 Sept. 2022, radicalreads.com/malcolm-x-favorite-books/.

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