Malcolm X (1925–1965) was an American Muslim minister and human rights activist who was a popular figure during the civil rights movement. He is best known for his controversial advocacy for the rights of blacks; some consider him a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its crimes against black Americans, while others accused him of preaching racism and violence.
Born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska, he relocated to New York City’s Harlem neighborhood in 1943, after spending his teenage years in a series of foster homes following his father’s murder and his mother’s hospitalization. In New York, Little engaged in several illicit activities, and was eventually sentenced to ten years in prison in 1946 for larceny and breaking and entering. In prison, he joined the Nation of Islam (NOI) and changed his name to Malcolm X. After his release, he quickly became one of the organization’s most influential leaders after being paroled in 1952.
Throughout 1964, his conflict with the Nation of Islam intensified, and he was repeatedly sent death threats. On February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was preparing to address the OAAU in Manhattan when he was assassinated by Thomas Hagan, Thomas Johnson, and Norman Butler, three members of the Nation of Islam. The trio were sentenced to indeterminate life sentences, and were required to serve a minimum of 20 years in prison. Conspiracy theories regarding the assassination, and whether it was conceived or aided by leading members of the Nation or with law enforcement agencies, have persisted for decades after the shooting.
Malcolm X was posthumously honored with Malcolm X Day, which commemorates him in various cities and countries worldwide. Hundreds of streets and schools in the U.S. have been renamed in his honor, while the Audubon Ballroom, the site of his assassination, was in-part redeveloped in 2005 to accommodate the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center.