Malcolm X: his photos and quotes

Civil rights icon Malcolm X was assassinated 52 years ago today. His words shaped a generation.

“A wise man can play the part of a clown, but a clown can’t play the part of a wise man.”

Malcolm X (original surname “Little”) was also known as el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz. The civil rights activist was shot dead in 1965 at the age of 40 but not before he had shaped the future of America’s racial conscience.

After leaving prison after a stint in jail for burglary, he continued his education and joined the Nation of Islam (NOI), a nascent African American political and religious movement.

“If you’re not ready to die for it, put the word ‘freedom’ out of your vocabulary.”

“You don’t have to be a man to fight for freedom. All you have to do is to be an intelligent human being.”

Malcolm X became the spokesperson of the organisation, broadcasting the NOI’s message across the US.

“Sitting at the table doesn’t make you a diner. You must be eating some of what’s on that plate. Being here in America doesn’t make you an American. Being born here in America doesn’t make you an American.”

Malcolm chose the surname as “X” rather than his given surname, “Little,” which he regarded as a slave name. He chose the “X” to signify his lost tribal name.

“If violence is wrong in America, violence is wrong abroad. If it is wrong to be violent defending black women and black children and black babies and black men, then it is wrong for America to draft us and make us violent abroad in defense of her. And if it is right for America to draft us, and teach us how to be violent in deafens of her, then it is right for you and me to do whatever is necessary to defend our own people right here in this country.”

Malcolm’s oratory skills, his charisma and his intellectual convictions attracted new members for the NOI.

“For tomorrow belongs to those that prepare for it today.”

A dispute with NOI arose after he made a comment over then President Kennedy’s assassination: “[Kennedy] never foresaw that the chickens would come home to roost so soon.”

“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”

Shortly after, Malcolm left the organisation to found his own group: The Muslim Mosque, Inc.

“I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.”

During his time in NOI, FBI agents infiltrated the body (one even acted as Malcolm’s bodyguard) and secretly placed bugs, wiretaps, cameras, and other surveillance equipment to monitor the group’s activities.

“Dr. [Martin Luther] King wants the same thing I want. Freedom.”

He faced many assassination attempts but in February 21, 1965, he was shot dead by three members of NOI: Talmadge Hayer, Norman 3X Butler, and Thomas 15X Johnson.

“They’re not leading our people toward any kind of independence, but they’re using their positions and their education and their talent to exploit our people worse than the slave master did during slavery.”

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