Malcolm X was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1925 to Earl and Louise Little. He had several siblings, including three older, half sibling1 and a younger, half brother. Malcolm spent his childhood and adolescence in Omaha, Lansing, Boston, and New York City before his incarceration in the Massachusetts State Prison for larceny in 1946. He was released from prison in 1952 and began working with the Nation of Islam. This organization gave him an opportunity to hone his leadership skills and he rose rapidly through the ranks, becoming a valued lieutenant and surrogate son of Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad. Indeed, he became Muhammad’s spokesperson, minister-at-large, and agent. With his wife Betty Shabazz, Malcolm fathered six daughters: Attallah, Qubilah, Ilyasah, Gamilah, Malikah, and Malaak. Malcolm’s popularity and influence provoked petty jealousies and led to tensions with members of Muhammad’s Family. Rumormongering by these family members and other Nation of Islam officials, facilitated by the clandestine agent provocateurs of the FBI, drove a wedge between Malcolm and Muhammad. Muhammad suspended Malcolm, using the latter’s irreverent comments about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy as a pretext.
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- 1.The first three quotations are from G. Breitman, ed. Malcolm X Speaks: Selected Statements (New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1965), 7–8, 126, 148. The fourth quote is from B. Perry, ed. Malcolm X: The Last Speeches (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1989), 156.Google Scholar