Name at birth: Malcolm LittleMalcolm X was the passionate and controversial black activist who was assassinated in New York City in 1965. Born in Nebraska and raised in a foster home, Malcolm Little had a troubled youth that included burglary and drug dealing. At age 20 he was sent to prison for a 10-year term. While in prison, he adopted the Black Muslim faith and upon his release in 1952 became a minister of the Nation of Islam. 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." Malcolm X 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.
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… Malcolm X married Betty Sanders, later called Betty Shabazz, in 1958; they had six daughters together. 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.