Malcolm X on the Anniversary of His Death

Malcolm X
Source: Ed Ford, Wikimedia Commons

Like his father and three uncles—and countless others who have spoken up for justice—Malcolm X was assassinated. He was killed 50 years ago at age 39 on February 21, 1965, while giving a talk at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City—just one week after his house was bombed.

Malcolm is known to most as a fiery civil rights orator, Muslim leader and advocate of black liberation “by any means necessary” (which the media always took to mean violence), but he was this and many things more. In fact, after reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X and several of his speeches, I came to know him also as gentle, kind and one who believed truth and justice should be the basic components of any life.

This man led a transformative life—transforming himself and others. He went from a foster child, a high school dropout, a street hustler and a prisoner to a civil rights leader and activist. He seemed to want only the best for African Americans and indeed people of all races. He initially focused his efforts on uplifting the African American community, but as he read more, traveled more and met people of all colors and backgrounds, he realized that he must be a fighter for all of humanity. He decided that justice cut across color and class lines.

Learn more about this fascinating man:

The Autobiography of Malcolm X: This is the classic autobiography of Malcolm X, as told by him to journalist Alex Haley. It's the story of Malcolm’s transformation from poverty and crime to a role as spiritual and intellectual leader.

Malcolm X: Awarded the Pulitzer Prize for history in 2012, Manning Marable's masterful biography reveals aspects of Malcolm X that make him more alive to us, rather than just an icon. In this book you'll find never-before-told accounts of his life and his death.

Black Prophetic Fire: Scholars Cornel West and Christa Buschendorf include Malcolm in this book of revolutionary African American leaders. They classify him as being part of a black prophetic tradition—and this goes beyond being just a leader. He was a type of prophet, they say, because he was willing to speak truth to power no matter the consequences.

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