Malcolm X is known for his extensive campaigning during the civil rights movement. Was he a redhead?
Malcolm X did have red hair. The African-American man had a reddish tint to his hair in his younger days and was nicknamed “Detroit Red” because of it. His hair color was most likely inherited from his white Scottish maternal grandfather, who raped Malcolm X’s maternal grandmother.
Let’s further explore the compelling and painful family history of Malcolm X.
The Tragic Family History of Malcolm X
Malcolm X’s mother, Louise Little, was born in La Digue, St. Andrew, Grenada. She was the daughter of Edith Langdon.
Louise’s mother, Edith (Malcom X’s grandmother), from Grenada, was raped when she was just 11 years old, by a “significantly older” Scottish slavemaster, Edward Norton, resulting in Edith’s only child.
“Yes! Yes, that raping, red-headed devil was my grandfather! That close, yes! My mother’s father! She didn’t like to speak of it, can you blame her?”
He continued, “She said she never laid eyes on him! She was glad for that! I’m glad for her! If I could drain away his blood that pollutes my body, and pollutes my complexion, I’d do it! Because I hate every drop of the rapist’s blood that’s in me.”
Malcolm X’s mother, Louise, was raised by her grandparents, the Langdon’s, since her mother was only a child. After their deaths, she emigrated to Montreal, Canada, in 1917, where she was introduced to the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA).
Malcolm X is Born but More Tragedy Awaits
Malcolm X’s mother met Earl Little, through the UNIA. They married in 1919 and moved to the US the following year, eventually settling in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1921. Malcolm was born in 1925.
The couple instilled “Black pride” into their children, including Malcolm.
About a year after Malcolm’s birth, the family was forced to relocate, after receiving threats from the Ku Klux Klan’s (KKK). They settled in Lansing, Michigan, but received harassment again from the Black Legion, a split-off of the KKK.
The family home burned down in 1929, with Malcom X’s father attributing the blaze to the Black Legion.
Tragedy struck the family again when Malcolm’s father died, in 1931. His death was ruled a streetcar (tram) accident. However, Malcolm’s mother believed the Black Legion had murdered her husband.
Malcolm’s mother, Louise, began dating another man, and became pregnant in 1937. The man vanished during her pregnancy and the emotional trauma became too much for Louise, who had a mental breakdown. Malcolm X would have been around 13 years old at the time.
Malcolm and his siblings were placed in foster homes and orphanages and his mother was committed to a mental hospital for 26 years. Malcolm was bounced from home to home, and this, along with all the other trauma of his childhood, affected him greatly.
How did Malcolm X become recognizable?
Johnson suffered brain contusions and subdural hemorrhaging, but was arrested and booked along with three other African-American men. Malcolm X was alerted to the incident and demanded to see Johnson at the police station.
The police denied any of the men were being held, until a 500 strong crowd had gathered outside. They eventually allowed Malcolm X to see Johnson, who arranged for him to go to a hospital.
The crowd continued to grow into the thousands, until Malcolm X dismissed the crowd with a hand signal. One police officer remarked, “No one man should have that much power.”
Malcolm X was later put under surveillance.
Why is he called “Malcolm X?”
In his autobiography, he explained that the “X” symbolized his unknown African name. He wrote, “For me, my ‘X’ replaced the white slavemaster name of ‘Little’ which some blue-eyed devil named Little had imposed upon my paternal forebears.”
Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965.