MalcolmXLiberation not integration was Malcolm X’s unequivocal message. It was one born from bitter experience at the hands of white America, beginning in early childhood. Born May 19, 1925 in Omaha, NE, Malcolm X (who changed his last name from Little to X in his 20s), received his first lessons in nationalism from his minister father, a follower of Marcus Garvey. Rev. Little was an avid organizer for Garvey’s movement until he was murdered in 1931.

Placed in foster homes after his mother had a nervous breakdown, Malcolm quickly turned to crime. It was while in jail that he first learned of the teachings of Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam, an event which would change his life for ever. Malcolm X quickly became a powerful force in the movement. His fervor and charismatic personality helping to swell the ranks. Conflict with Muhammad eventually followed and Malcolm X left the NOI after a pilgrimage to Mecca, where he saw “sincere and true brotherhood practiced by all colors together irrespective of their color.”

Malcolm X was killed three months before his 40th birthday while giving a speech at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem, NY on Feb. 21, 1965. Three Black Muslim men were later sentenced to life imprisonment for his murder.