This Byte has been authored by

Emily Larin

Malcolm X wearing a suit and tie and eye glasses

Malcolm X is a Black History Icon.

Known as one of the greatest civil rights activists of all time, Malcolm X was a champion of Black empowerment, Black nationalism, and racial justice.

What lessons can we learn from his life and legacy?

Speak Out Against Injustice

Malcolm X quote:

"By Any Means Necessary..."

As a Muslim minister and spokesperson for the Nation of Islam (NOI), he gave passionate speeches advocating for Black nationalism.

Black boy outside next to Photo by Unseen Histories on Unsplash

Racial segregation in the U.S. and the rise of racist groups like the Ku Klux Klan in the early 20th century fueled violence against Black communities. Therefore, he argued that Black people should defend themselves against white supremacist violence "by any means necessary."

However, he was never antagonistic towards White people . Instead, he was acting in response to the violence and harm being perpetrated against Black people.

While his beliefs were controversial, they gave a necessary voice to Black Americans who felt frustrated with the civil rights movement's strategy of non-violence .

Quiz

Malcolm X advocated for Black empowerment through which of the following means?

Evolution Is A Necessary Part Of Life

Malcolm X smiling

His commitment to learning and growing was inspirational.

Despite his tragic childhood and incarceration, his commitment to self-improvement and education was key to his evolution from petty criminal to world class orator, scholar, and activist.

In 1964, he left the Nation Of Islam due to tensions with leader Elijah Muhammad and questioning of its teachings, igniting another transformation.

Always keep an open mind, which is necessary to the flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent search of truth.

Soon after, he converted to the Sunni faith, went on a pilgrimage to Mecca, and changed his name to Malik el-Shabazz.

Gathering of practitioners of the muslim faith at Mecca Photo by ibrahim uz on Unsplash

While on his travels, he was inspired by the camaraderie of all races of worshippers. As a result, he embraced a more inclusive vision of civil rights for Black Americans.

Be True To Who You Are

Malcolm X quote:

Malcolm's teachings are rooted in self-esteem.

Even though he was criticized in the media, people were drawn by his intelligence, charisma, and most importantly, his bluntness about the insidious nature of anti-Blackness, White supremacy, and racism.

He boosted the self-esteem of Black Americans due to his advocacy for black empowerment and self-determination.

Malcolm's courage and bravery to stand for what he believed in, regardless of public opinion, inspired a generation to speak out against injustice.

During the late 1980s, Many Hip-hop groups adopted Malcolm X as an icon. Most notably, Public Enemy sampled his "Message to the Grassroots" speech in their 1987 song "Bring the Noise".

Take Action

Malcolm X quote: Preserving Malcolm X's legacy

Malcolm X's philosophy remains relevant today. You can honor his advocacy and teachings by doing the following:

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