MALCOLM X DAY
Today is May 19 and the third Friday in May on the National Day Calendar and we are honoring the life of civil rights activist Malcolm X. Join us as we explore his life and see how one man became an inspiration for change and equality inspiring Malcolm X Day.
Malcolm Little was born on May 19, 1925 in Omaha Nebraska and was the fourth of seven children. He spent most of his childhood years in foster care after his father passed away. Malcolm dropped out of high school and would pursue odd jobs to make a living. For a short period of time, he would move to Boston to live with his sister, eventually moving to Michigan. It was here he met John Elroy Sanford, who was an aspiring comedian, later known as Redd Foxx. Interestingly, Sanford and Malcolm both had reddish hair that would earn them the nicknames Chicago Red (Sanford) and Detroit Red (Malcolm) on the streets of Detroit.
In 1946, Malcolm was arrested for larceny and burglary and would serve 10 years in prison for his crimes. During his prison sentence, Malcolm began to transform into a religious man who also had interest in politics. He would join the Nation of Islam and adapt his life around encouraging Black people to empower themselves to achieve economic and social success. It was also during this time Malcom would remove Little as his last name and add the letter “X” as reference to his identity during slavery.
After his release from prison in 1952, Malcolm X would continue following the Nation of Islam, speaking to people everywhere. In fact, he was an eloquent and charismatic speaker and quickly became one of the organizations most influential representatives. For over 12 years, he would advocate for Black people fighting racial injustices.
Life Changing Experience
In 1964, Malcolm X travelled to Mecca, Saudi Arabia to participate in a holy pilgrimage. Unbeknownst him, this trip would become a life-changing experience, changing the way he viewed mankind. Before going to Mecca, he thought in order for Black people to survive, they must separate themselves from white people. This thought process was largely in part due to the teachings of the Nation of Islam. However, after his experience in Mecca, Malcolm would return to the U.S. with a new belief system as a result of the people he met during the pilgrimage. He began preaching to all people that success of a nation meant working together, despite their racial differences.
“In fact, what I have seen and experienced on this pilgrimage has forced me to ‘rearrange’ much of my own thought‐pattern, and to toss aside some of my previous conclusions.”Malcolm X, Interview with the NY Times, May 8, 1964
The unfortunate belief system of the Nation of Islam to promote violence towards non-supporters became something of the past for Malcolm X. In fact, after his pilgrimage, he would abandon the beliefs of the organization, resulting in an uneasy relationship. Because Malcolm X was a prominent individual in Black American, the organization would become extremely volatile towards him.
5 Accomplishments of Malcolm X
- Beginning in 1965, Malcolm X was the most prominent minister at the Nation of Islam mosques Temple No. 11 (Boston), Temple No. 12 (Philadelphia), and Temple No. 7 (New York).
- Malcolm X lead one of the nations largest civil rights events in 1963 at Unity Rally in Harlem.
- The NY Times names Malcolm X as the second most sought after speaker in the U.S. in 1963.
- In 1964, Malcolm X created the Organizations of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) after forming Muslim Mosque, Inc.
- During the 1960s, Malcolm X gave several interviews, participated in debates, and appeared on television promoting equality among all people.
On February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was shot 15 times by three members of the Nation of Islam during a speaking engagement in Manhattan. Over 1,500 people attended Malcolm’s funeral in Harlem. Friends and family buried Malcolm X themselves as a way to honor the man and the contributions he made to the civil rights movement.
HONORING MALCOLM X DAY
- Read a book about the life of Malcolm X.
- Watch the award winning movie Malcolm X.
- Attend a lecture about Malcolm X at a local university.
- Learn about the civil rights movement.
- Volunteer to support an organization that advocates for equal rights.
- Share your thoughts and support on Malcolm X Day using #MalcolmXDay on social media.
Organizations are trying to help make Malcolm X Day into an official state holiday across the country. So far, the day is an official holiday in:
- District of Columbia
Watch and listen to the iconic speech “The Ballot or the Bullet.”
Similar days on the National Day Calendar:
- MARTIN LUTHER KING JR DAY | Third Monday in January
- BILL OF RIGHTS DAY | December 15
- AFRICAN WORLD HERITAGE DAY | May 5