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Malcolm X

Religious Figure / Civil Rights Figure

Born: 19 May 1925
Died: 21 February 1965 (assassination)
Birthplace: Omaha, Nebraska
Best known as: Assassinated leader of the 1960s black power movement

Name at birth: Malcolm Little

While in prison for burglary, Malcolm Little adopted the Black Muslim faith and became a minister of the Nation of Islam upon his release in 1952. As Malcolm X, he was a charismatic advocate of black separatism who rejected Martin Luther King, Jr.'s policies of non-violence. At first a follower of Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X broke with the Nation of Islam in 1964. That same year he made a pilgrimage to Mecca and shortly afterwards he embraced orthodox Islam and took the name El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. He recanted some of his earlier more strident viewpoints on race, though he remained a staunch advocate of "black power." He was shot to death by a group of men while giving a speech in New York City in 1965; some of the men had connections to the Nation of Islam, though a formal tie between that group and the assassination was never proven.

Extra credit: The Autobiography of Malcolm X was published after his death in 1965 and became a best-seller; the book was co-written by Alex Haley, later the author of Roots... X's widow, Betty Shabazz, died on 23 June 1997 after being severely burned in an apartment fire set by her 12-year-old grandson... Actor Denzel Washington played Malcolm X in the 1992 Spike Lee movie X.

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