English 3 DC
14 December 2017
The Changing Philosophies of Malcolm X
Black Power. What does that mean? What does it matter? It’s significance was non-existent during the beginning of U.S. history. The backs of slaves planted the roots of this young nation from tobacco to cotton. The belittling of African-American pride and culture that festered into an ongoing cycle of black subjugation took a heavy toll on black spirituality. Many accepted their fate but few men broke from the holds of bigotry and dedicated their lives to nurture this concept of Black Power. Among these men was Malcolm X, who argued, “Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you're a man, you take it” (Malcolm X). Through Malcolm X’s multiple philosophical views on how to achieve equality for black people, he remained a powerful, influential agitator in the African American Civil Rights Movement.
Born Malcolm Little in “Omaha, Nebraska, in 1925” (Phelan), Malcolm X grew up to be an iconic political figure in the Civil Rights Movement. He was raised in multiple foster homes as a result of his widowed mother struggling to provide for multiple children. As mentioned in Malcolm X: A Search for Truth, “After Earl Little’s death, Malcolm’s mother sank into desperate poverty. The children, especially Malcolm, became increasingly difficult to handle, and the racist social service authorities hounded Louise Little” (Greene). Because of such a rough childhood, he had to dedicate himself to a life of crime to make a living. Starting at the age of sixteen, Malcolm began to take part in New York street hustling which involved selling drugs and bootleg whiskey. He also became “involved in a string of thefts in Boston starting in December of 1945” (Greene). It is during this time that Malcolm receives the nickname “Detroit Red”, which he received due to the color of his hair.
Eventually his life in crime led to his arrest on burglary charges, for which he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. While in prison, Malcolm used his time to further his education and became involved with the Nation of Islam. The teachings of Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X’s mentor, declared that, “white society actively worked to keep African-Americans from empowering themselves and achieving political, economic, and social success” (Phelan). This position on radical Islam sparked Malcolm X’s journey in the fight for the rights of black people.
Malcolm X’s introduction to the Nation of Islam can be credited to his brother, Reginald Little. As Reginald would visit Malcolm in prison, they would discuss the latest conversation in the Muslim religion and Malcolm became quite intrigued. Since Reginald belonged to the Nation of Islam, Malcolm decided to study the teachings of its leader, Elijah Muhammad. Malcolm stated, “Every instinct of the ghetto jungle streets, every hustling fox and criminal wolf instinct in me, wh...