Chapter Six – Black Self-Determination and Self-Defense

Notes on Malcolm X

Malcolm X

Black-and-white photograph of Malcolm X turned 45 degrees laughing at something out of sight. He is wearing a suit and in front of a microphone.
Malcolm X, March 1964 by Ed Ford, World Telegram staff photographer.

Early Life

  • Born to a family with 8 other children in Nebraska
  • Malcolm’s mother was a homemaker and his father was a Baptist minister and supporter of Marcus Garvey
  • Father killed by White Supremacists, when Malcolm was very young
  • Mother committed to a mental institution. The children were raised in different foster homes and orphanages

Young Adult

  • Graduated from Junior High top of his class
  • X had a dream of becoming a lawyer but a teacher told him it was “no realistic goal for a n—–“
  • Dropped out of school at age 15
  • Eventually became coordinator of several narcotics, prostitution and gambling rings
  • Sentenced in Boston to 10 years in jail on burglary charges– served 7 years

Jail Time

  • Educated himself in jail
  • His brother Reginald talked to him about Islam and the Nation of Islam (NOI)
  • Elijah Muhammad believed in a nation-state for African-Americans
  • Paroled in 1952, becomes a devoted follower of the NOI and changes his name to X

His Time with NOI

  • Appointed Minister and National Spokesman
  • Opened sections in Detroit, Michigan and Harlem
  • Through his work, the organization grows from 500 members in 1952 to 30,000 n 1963
  • Infiltrated and bugged by the FBI
  • Marries Betty X and together they have six children (but twins born after his death)

Nation’s Teachings

  • Black people are the original people of the world
  • White people are “devils”
  • Blacks are superior to whites
  • The end of the white race is imminent
  • Complete separation of black people. US state as transition to definite return to Africa

Issues with NOI

  • Chicken coming home to roost statement in response to JFK assassination
  • Malcolm is suspended for 90 days — no public speeches
  • Elijah Mohammad’s sex life and illegitimate children
  • Jealousy by NOI over Malcolm X’s fame and media attraction

Post NOI

  • Mosque, Inc.
  • Organization of Afro-American Unity (Pan African)
  • Forges more connections with civil rights activists (including MLK Jr.)
  • The Ballot or the Bullet
  • Sunni Muslim
  • Pilgrimage to Mecca
  • Islam as a way to overcome racism

Appreciation Throughout Africa

  • Malcolm X is invited to join governments of Egypt (Nasser), Algeria (Ben Bella), and Ghana (Kwame Nkrumah)

Malcolm X’s Intellectual Changes

  • After visiting Africa, he no longer thinks that white and black people cannot collaborate to end racism
  • Envisions Islam as a way to end racism
  • Sticks to the idea of “by whatever means necessary”

Death Threats and Attempts Against His Life

A newspaper photograph, with caption, of Malcolm X seated and posing with his wife and three children and friend. The caption reads: "Clay's Guests: Black Muslim spokesman Malcolm X (center) and his family visit Cassius Clay's training camp in Miami, FLA., during couple's sixth wedding anniversary. The Family are: Mrs. Betty X, Attilah, Qubilah and Ilyasah. Clay attends Muslim meetings.
  • Both Elijah Muhammad and Louis Farrakhan (Boston) made public threats against his life
  • His house was burned, and another house was bombed
  • When giving a speech at the Organization of Afro-American Unity in Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom, X was rushed and gunned down

Theories Around Who Assassinated Him

  • FBI (COINTELPRO): John Ali, national secretary of the Nation of Islam, was identified as an undercover FBI agent. He exacerbated tensions with Muhammad
  • Ali met with one of the convicted killers the night before the assassination
Printed poster of Fred Hampton with the quote "You can kill the revolutionary but you can't kill the revolution" in red under his face.
Fred Hampton by Jacob Anikulapo

Malcolm X is Influential to Many Organizations, Namely The Black Panther Party 

  • 10,000 members and newspaper circulation of 250,000 (1969)
  • Acquired celebrity status
  • Free Breakfast for Children Program influenced by Maoist doctrine of serving the people
  • Medical Clinics
  • Free legal aids and bussing-to-prison programs
  • Armed Citizen’s Patrol
  • BPP Ten Point Program: Land, Bread, Housing, Education, Clothing, Justice and Peace

The Ballot or the Bullet

Photo of a young black man from the chest up pictured holding a cardboard sign with "Am I Next" spray-painted on it.
A protester participating in a Minnesota rally following the shooting and murder of Philando Castile by a St. Anthony Police officer.



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