4 comments / Posted on by Mamie Colfox

After the tragic events of 25th May 2020, the death of George Floyd resonated around the world. The horrific video of Derek Chauvin, the police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck until he stopped breathing, has emphasized the systemic racism that still exists in the 21st Century.

(Malcolm X: The Great Photographs, £95) 

The need for basic civil rights for black people is something that has been a continuous fight for over 70 years. Back in the 1950s and 60s, the Civil Rights movement was a struggle for social justice. African Americans struggled to gain equal rights under the law in the US, even after the Civil War of the 1800s officially abolished slavery. It did not, however, halt discrimination against black people and by the mid-20th century, they’d had enough of the violence and prejudice against them. Along with many white Americans, they mobilized an unprecedented fight for equality.

Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little, was an avid supporter and African American leader of Black Nationalism and the Civil Rights Movement in the early 1960s. During a tough upbringing, the Ku Klux Klan made threats against his family and the Little’s were forced to move from Nebraska to Michigan. Following this, the Black Legionaries, a white supremacist group, murdered his father; the authorities claimed his death was an ‘accident’ and his family was denied any death benefits.

As a teenager, Malcolm's reddish tinge to his hair gave him the nickname “Detroit Red” when he became a street hustler, drug dealer and gang leader in New York. Unsurprisingly this ended in jail time, however, his encounters with the teachings of Elijah Muhammad led him to join the Nation of Islam.

Established in 1930, the movement combined traditional Islamic views and Black Nationalist ideas, promoting racial unity and self-help. When Malcolm was released from jail, he changed his surname to X in keeping with the Nation's rejection of white supremacy.

Malcolm’s competent public speaking led him to lecture at universities such as Harvard and Oxford, in which he took Martin Luther King Jr’s notions of integration and non-violence a step further. For him, the problems were deeper than having the civil right to vote or be able to sit in a restaurant. He wanted to achieve results “by any means necessary”, putting him at the opposite end of the spectrum to Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. His contribution to changing references to African Americans from ‘Negro’ and ‘Coloured’ to ‘Black’ and ‘Afro-American’ shows his approach worked.

In 1963 there were tensions between Elijah and Malcolm. Elijah fathered six illegitimate children with two public paternity suits. Malcolm made radical comments about John F Kennedy’s assassination, claiming it was “the chickens coming home to roost”; violent societies suffering the consequences of violence. This led to Malcolm leaving the Nation in 1964 and changing his name to el-Hajj Malik el-Shabbaz after his pilgrimage to Mecca.

In 1965 after two visits to Africa, he addressed the Organization of African Unity, now known as the African Union, and founded the Organization of Agro-American Unity to internationalize the known plight of African Americans.

Ultimately, the Nation was the reason for his death. On February 21st, 1965, three members of the Nation assassinated Malcolm whilst giving a lecture in Harlem. Sadly the Black Panther Party was only created a year after he died, but his perspectives and ideologies lived on and had a huge effect on future battles for independence.

After the tragic events of 25th May 2020, the death of George Floyd resonated around the world. The horrific video of Derek Chauvin, the police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck until he stopped breathing, has emphasized the systemic racism that still exists in the 21st Century.

(Malcolm X: The Great Photographs, £95) 

The need for basic civil rights for black people is something that has been a continuous fight for over 70 years. Back in the 1950s and 60s, the Civil Rights movement was a struggle for social justice. African Americans struggled to gain equal rights under the law in the US, even after the Civil War of the 1800s officially abolished slavery. It did not, however, halt discrimination against black people and by the mid-20th century, they’d had enough of the violence and prejudice against them. Along with many white Americans, they mobilized an unprecedented fight for equality.

Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little, was an avid supporter and African American leader of Black Nationalism and the Civil Rights Movement in the early 1960s. During a tough upbringing, the Ku Klux Klan made threats against his family and the Little’s were forced to move from Nebraska to Michigan. Following this, the Black Legionaries, a white supremacist group, murdered his father; the authorities claimed his death was an ‘accident’ and his family was denied any death benefits.

As a teenager, Malcolm's reddish tinge to his hair gave him the nickname “Detroit Red” when he became a street hustler, drug dealer and gang leader in New York. Unsurprisingly this ended in jail time, however, his encounters with the teachings of Elijah Muhammad led him to join the Nation of Islam.

Established in 1930, the movement combined traditional Islamic views and Black Nationalist ideas, promoting racial unity and self-help. When Malcolm was released from jail, he changed his surname to X in keeping with the Nation's rejection of white supremacy.

Malcolm’s competent public speaking led him to lecture at universities such as Harvard and Oxford, in which he took Martin Luther King Jr’s notions of integration and non-violence a step further. For him, the problems were deeper than having the civil right to vote or be able to sit in a restaurant. He wanted to achieve results “by any means necessary”, putting him at the opposite end of the spectrum to Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. His contribution to changing references to African Americans from ‘Negro’ and ‘Coloured’ to ‘Black’ and ‘Afro-American’ shows his approach worked.

In 1963 there were tensions between Elijah and Malcolm. Elijah fathered six illegitimate children with two public paternity suits. Malcolm made radical comments about John F Kennedy’s assassination, claiming it was “the chickens coming home to roost”; violent societies suffering the consequences of violence. This led to Malcolm leaving the Nation in 1964 and changing his name to el-Hajj Malik el-Shabbaz after his pilgrimage to Mecca.

In 1965 after two visits to Africa, he addressed the Organization of African Unity, now known as the African Union, and founded the Organization of Agro-American Unity to internationalize the known plight of African Americans.

Ultimately, the Nation was the reason for his death. On February 21st, 1965, three members of the Nation assassinated Malcolm whilst giving a lecture in Harlem. Sadly the Black Panther Party was only created a year after he died, but his perspectives and ideologies lived on and had a huge effect on future battles for independence.

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