Malcolm X, Head-and-Shoulders Portrait, Facing Slightly Right at Microphones Digital History ID 2699
Credit: Library of Congress
Media type: photograph
Museum Number: LC-USZ62-112133
Annotation: The most controversial exponent of Black Nationalism was Malcolm X. The son of a Baptist minister who had been an organizer for Marcus Garvey's United Negro Improvement Association, he was born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska, and grew up in Lansing, Michigan. A reformed drug addict and criminal, Malcolm X learned about the Black Muslims in a high security prison. After his release from prison in 1952, he adopted the name Malcolm X to replace "the white slave-master name which had been imposed upon my paternal forebears by some blue-eyed devil." He quickly became one of the Black Muslims' most eloquent speakers, denouncing alcohol, tobacco, and extramarital sex.
Condemned by some whites as a demagogue for such statements as "If ballots won't work, bullets will," Malcolm X gained widespread public notoriety by attacking the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a "chump" and an Uncle Tom, by advocating self-defense against white violence, and by emphasizing black political power.
Copyright 2021 Digital History