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(born May 19, 1925, Omaha, Neb., U.S.died Feb. 21, 1965, New York, N.Y.) U.S. black Muslim leader. He was raised in Michigan, where the family house was burned by the Ku Klux Klan; his father was later murdered and his mother was institutionalized. He moved to Boston, drifted into petty crime, and was sent to prison for burglary in 1946. He converted to the Black Muslim faith (Nation of Islam) the same year. On his release in 1952, he changed his last name to X to signify his rejection of his slave name. Soon after meeting the Nation of Islam's leader, Elijah Muhammad, he became the sect's most effective speaker and organizer. He spoke with bitter eloquence against white exploitation of blacks and derided the civil rights movement and integration, calling instead for black separatism, black pride, and the use of violence for self-protection. Differences with Elijah Muhammad prompted Malcolm to leave the Nation of Islam in 1964. A pilgrimage to Mecca led him to acknowledge the possibility of world brotherhood and to convert to orthodox Islam. Rival Black Muslims made threats against his life, and he was shot to death at a rally in a Harlem ballroom. His celebrated autobiography (1965) was written by Alex Haley on the basis of numerous interviews conducted shortly before Malcolm's death.
Variants of MALCOLM X
Malcolm X orig. Malcolm Little later El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Malcolm X, visit Britannica.com.