Malcolm X was a leading figure in the Nation of Islam and a black leader in the 1960's, when America was beginning to come away from "separate but equal" policies, but still functionally held blacks and whites separately. He dropped out of school early and turned to a life of crime, but discovered the Nation of Islam in prison. His religious beliefs, which later split with the Nation of Islam and embraced a more traditional view of Islam, led the rest of his life after prison.
The Nation of Islam
Malcolm X converted to the Nation of Islam while in prison between 1949 and 1952. He left the prison a member of this religious community, which originated in the 1930s as a black Muslim reaction to the perception that Christianity was the white man's religion. He changed his name to Malcolm X. The X stands for a refusal to align himself to any nationality with a last name. Malcolm X's teachings and after-prison actions were based on the teachings of Allah and the Koran, but he was removed from the Nation of Islam in 1963. Malcolm's response to the removal was to align himself with more traditional teachings of Islam and to begin his own Nation of Islam sect in America, again based on the worship of Allah and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad.
An Air of Respect
Malcolm X believed in mutual respect among all people. He refused to see color in a time when color was still a defining characteristic in American culture and society. Malcolm X said he believed all men and women were equal and he refused to agree with the American ideal of separate but equal accommodations for black and white people.
Committing to Religion
A commitment to religion is essential in the Nation of Islam community. Malcolm X embraced this idea when he continued to preach the teachings of Allah after being removed from the Nation of Islam. He decided to begin his own Nation of Islam sect in America and remain committed to his chosen religion.
Seeking Knowledge and Changing
Nation of Islam belief dictates its followers continue to seek knowledge, grow and change with time. Malcolm X never stopped studying. He continued to educate himself, despite leaving formal public school at the age of 15. He was able to deliver moving speeches and influenced many different African leaders. The United Nations recognized his influence in 1964. Without the Nation of Islam's idea of continuous learning and growing, Malcolm X may have remained a high school dropout and criminal.
Acknowledging Duty to Your People
Malcolm X believed his people were the people of color of America and around the world. He was disgusted by the injustices to people of color and acknowledged a duty to his people through Nation of Islam teachings. He educated himself in an attempt to fulfill his duty to his people, and he traveled to distant locations to help or lead lectures on injustices against his people.
Leave a Legacy
The Nation of Islam states that each Nation of Islam believer leave a legacy. Malcolm X, murdered in New York City in 1965 at the age of nearly 40, left a legacy that is still embraced decades later. Many young people of color look to Malcolm X for inspiration and insight. Movies and books have been created regarding his life and numerous college courses discuss the significance of his work. Malcolm X upheld the Nation of Islam belief to leave a positive legacy.
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