"I’m for the freedom of the 22 million Afro-Americans by any means necessary." This famous quote by Malcolm X during a December 1964 interview with Claude Lewis was made two months before he was assassinated. Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little, on May 19, 1925, in Omaha Nebraska. His family relocated to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, then to East Lansing, Michigan. One of ten children, he grew up poor, an eight grade drop out, with limited opportunity, during the Depression of the 1930’s. In Lansing, the KKK burned down the family home.
His father, a member of the UNIA, (Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association), was murdered by racists. Malcolm Little left Michigan for Boston, Massachusetts, where he became a Pullman porter. He eventually left Boston for New York City. In New York, known as "Rhythm Red," sometimes as "Detroit Red," Malcolm Little began running numbers. He was busted for possession of stolen property, and was convicted and sentenced to 10 years.
During incarceration at Charlestown State Prison, in Concord Massachusetts, and at the Norfolk, Virginia correctional facility (1948), he educated himself by reading books. He served six and a half years of his sentence, and was released in 1952 by the Massachusetts parole board. Malcolm Little left Massachusetts to live with his brother in Detroit. While in Detroit, Malcolm traveled to Chicago to hear Elijah Muhammad speak at a Nation of Islam rally. He was impressed by what he heard. Back in Detroit, Malcolm volunteered his services at Temple #1.
As an articulate advocate of black pride, he quickly rose to prominence as a leader in the Nation of Islam with a new name, Malcolm X. In 1961, Malcolm X established the Muhammad Speaks newspaper. His aggressive philosophy as aligned with the Nation of Islam, was clearly different from the other school of black leadership during the day: Martin Luther King’s creed of nonviolence (exemplified by the SCLC).
A change came for Malcolm X in 1964 after experiencing the holy cities of Mecca and Medina in Africa. His philosophy changed, he separated from Elijah Muhammad, and Malcolm X founded the Organization for Afro-American Unity. In 1965, in New York City, at the age of 39, Malcolm X was assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom.