Civil rights leader Malcolm X would have been 86 years old today, had it not been for his tragic murder in 1965. Born Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska, he and his family had to move several times, because they were threatened by Ku Klux Klansmen in Omaha and their home was burned in Michigan. As an adult, he would become one of the key figures in the fight for basic human rights for blacks and one of the most influential spokesmen for black nationalism in the 20th century.
For a time, he spoke out in support of black supremacy, but Malcolm's stances softened. In 1964, he left the Nation of Islam and became an orthodox Sunni Muslim, changing his name to El-Hajj Malki El-Shabazz. Credited with raising the self-esteem of black Americans and reconnecting them with their African heritage, he continued to preach self-determination and togetherness.
In one of his most famous speeches, Malcolm X spoke to the black community about self-hatred. In honor of his birthday, check out the clip of a powerful speech Malcolm X gave in 1962.
It's amazing how much of what he was saying 49 years ago is still relevant to debate on civil rights and society today. Personally, I love this quote from a speech given on December 12, 1964 in New York City.
I believe in the brotherhood of man, all men, but I don't believe in brotherhood with anybody who doesn't want brotherhood with me. I believe in treating people right, but I'm not going to waste my time trying to treat somebody right who doesn't know how to return the treatment.
Given how courageous and influential he was, it's no wonder his legacy has continued to live on. Happy birthday, Malcolm X.
Image via MalcolmX.com