Malcolm X was born in Omaha, Nebraska. As a young child, he moved with his family to Milwaukee, Wisconsin and later to Lansing, Michigan. From the age of 14 to 21, Malcolm X lived in Roxbury, a largely African American neighborhood of Boston.
Read more about where Malcolm X grew up and his early life below.
A Family Under Threat
Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925 first lived in Omaha, Nebraska with his parents; Louise Helen Little and Earl Little.
Malcolm Little, as he was known for the first 25 years of his life, would live in Omaha for just one year before moving to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1926.
The family’s move was prompted by threats from the Ku Klux Klan, a white surpremicist hate group that believed that the involvement of X’s father in the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) was ‘spreading trouble’.
A further move to Lansing, Michigan would see X’s family be continuously harassed by the Black Legion, another white supremacist hate group that his father believed burned the family’s house down in 1929.
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A Family Tragedy
When Malcolm was just six, his father, Earl Little was killed in what was officially ruled as a car accident.
However, X’s mother, Louise Little, believed her husband had been murdered by the Black Legion, the same white supremecist group that was believed to have burned down the family’s home in 1929.
The idea that his father had been murdered by white supremacists was understandably very difficult for Malcolm, as a young child, to comprehend.
After the death of her husband and a failed relationship with a man she would go on to have a child with, Louise Little, X’s mother suffered a nervous breakdown and was subsequently admitted to a mental health institution in 1937, where she would reside for a further 24 years.
Malcolm and his seven other siblings were split up and sent to separate foster homes across Michigan.
Despite his family hardships, X flourished at junior high but ultimately dropped out of high school after a white teacher commented that his dreams of pursuing a career in law were “no realistic goal for a *n-word*”.
A Move to Islam
After dropping out of high school, Malcolm lived with his half sister, Ella Little-Collins in Roxbury, a largely African American neighborhood of Boston.
In 1943, at the age of 18, X moved to Harlem, New York. It was in Harlem that he would get caught up in criminal activity; drug dealing, robbery and racketeering.
Just two years later, in 1945, Malcolm would move back to Boston where he would engage in further robberies, this time targeting wealthy white families. The following year, he was arrested and eventually sentenced to ten years in prison.
It was during his time in prison that Malcolm would learn of the Nation of Islam, a religion that preached black self reliance. It was his brother, Reginald that would write and educate him on the beliefs of the religion.
In 1950, after learning more on the Nation of Islam and engaging in teachings from its leader, Elijah Muhummad, Malcolm denounced his last name and began signing it, Malcolm X, a request from the leader himself.
In his autobiography, Malcolm explained that the ‘X’ represented the true African name of his ancestors, of which he would never know and that Little was the white slave master name “which some blue-eyed devil named Little had imposed upon my paternal forebears.”
You can watch videos on the legacy of Malcolm X on YouTube below.