50 years ago, on the 21st of February, 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in New York. How much do you know about the civil rights activist?
Why Did He Change His Name To Malcolm X? Malcolm X's birth name was Malcolm Little, he changed his surname to X when he joined the Nation of Islam (NOI) because he considered Little to be his slave name. The letter X was chosen to signify his lost tribal name.
What was the Relationship Between Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali?
Malcolm X met Muhammad Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, while Cassius was training for his first fight against Sonny Liston and became his political and spiritual mentor.
At first, Cassius was told he could not join the Nation of Islam because of his boxing career, but when he defeated Sonny Liston and won the World Championship, they allowed him to join. Cassius first announced he was joining the Nation of Islam the day after the fight with Liston, announcing his new name as Cassius X. A month later Malcolm X was suspended from the NOI and the NOI leader Elijah Muhammad announced that Cassius would be given the name Muhammad Ali as his true Muslim name.
When in Ghana, near the end of 1964, Malcolm crossed paths with Ali and called out to him but Ali told him "You left the Honorable Elijah Muhammad; that was the wrong thing to do, Brother Malcolm."
They never crossed paths again and in Muhammad Ali's 2004 book The Soul of a Butterfly: Reflections on Life's Journey, he expressed regret for their falling out:
Turning my back on Malcolm was one of the mistakes that I regret most in my life. I wish I'd been able to tell Malcolm I was sorry, that he was right about so many things. But he was killed before I got the chance. He was a visionary ahead of us all.
What Happened After Malcolm X Split from the Nation of Islam?
In March of '64, Malcolm X split from the NOI and renounced Elijah Muhammad. He then started his own movement, the Muslim Mosque, Inc.
He went on a life-altering pilgrimage to Mecca in April where he shared his beliefs with other cultures and received an incredibly positive response. On his return he changed his name to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz and said he had met "blonde-haired, blued-eyed men I could call my brothers."
He began to speak not just to African-Americans but to people of all races, teaching a more inclusive, non-violent philosophy and he started the Organization of Afro-American Unity.
After leaving the NOI, Malcolm had been subject to a number of attacks and had to travel with bodyguards wherever he went. His house, which was the subject of a bitter dispute with the NOI, was firebombed on the 14th of February 1965 and he was shot dead on February the 25th 1965.
Images: Paulasleepwalker, Cliff