This is the birthday of a controversial figure (1925-1965) who is despised by some, but who is celebrated by many as one of the most influential black Americans in history. From Washington, D.C., to Berkeley, California, this day has been recognized as a holiday, and many streets and schools have been named after Malcolm X.
Do you wonder at that last name, “X”? Well, he was born Malcolm Little, but Malcolm decided to shed the surname “Little,” which was a white slavemaster's name. The letter “X” stood for the true African family name that Malcolm could never know, because slavery had so broken the chain of knowledge of ancestry and heritage.
Although Malcolm X went through a period of time when his beliefs were not only radical, but also violent and hateful, he changed his beliefs as he experienced more, read more, and met more and more people from all over the U.S. and the world. He regretted some of his former actions and disavowed some of his former beliefs.
In other words, he was open-minded enough, and honest enough, to publicly change his mind when faced with evidence contrary to his beliefs.
Malcolm X is credited with much of the energy and philosophy behind the Black Power movement, and the slogan “Black is beautiful,” which became ubiquitous in the 1960s, can trace its roots to Malcolm X. Some black Americans in the 50s and 60s found that Malcolm X spoke more to their situation and opinions than did the rest of the civil rights movement leaders, and many credit him with vastly improving feelings of self-worth and self-confidence in black kids and young people.
By the way, Malcolm X was tragically assassinated, just like Martin Luther King, Jr.