Malcolm X was a strong voice for human rights activism and an African-American Muslim minister born in 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska. He laid the foundation for the Black Power movement of the 1960s and 70s. Unlike Martin Luther King Jr.’s nonviolent protests, the Black Power movement incited more violence and asked for immediate radical action.
But Malcolm X’s early life wasn’t as outspoken. His father, a Baptist preacher, was killed when he was six and Malcolm was put in foster care. By the age of 20, he was in prison serving time for larceny and breaking and entering. It was after his release the he joined the Nation of Islam, an African-American political and religious movement, and became a powerful leader.
This strong foothold in the civil rights movement came at a cost: Malcolm X became a target. He survived multiple assassination attempts, forcing him to travel with a team of bodyguards. In 1965, his family’s home was firebombed (fortunately, with no injuries). Just a week later, he was assassinated in the Manhattan Audubon Ballroom. An astounding fifteen hundred people came to his Harlem funeral.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X was published in 1965, the result of a collaboration between himself and journalist Alex Haley. Eliot Fremont-Smith, reviewing The Autobiography of Malcolm X for The New York Times that same year, describes it as “extraordinary” and says it is a “brilliant, painful, important book.” The words Malcolm X left behind still resonate today, especially with the Black Lives Matter movement: “You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.”
Video: A short biography of Malcolm X, from Bio.