examine the life of Malcolm X and understand the main facts that gave him the drive to reinvent himself constantly





Malcolm X


The main aim of this article has been to examine the life of Malcolm X and understand the main facts that gave him the drive to reinvent himself constantly. This analysis is just not a simple question of analyzing the issues that brought out these many different aspects in his life, but it helps study them mainly from the perspective of the different four transformational phases he had during his life. These changes being explored include his entire life being, traced from his birth in Omaha, Nebraska, his struggles as a youth mainly with drug addiction and deprivation, and his experiences in prison, his later transformation to Islam emergence as a main spokesman and Muslim leader and lastly his demise through assassination at a prime age.

It then continues to analyze the impact that these changes had on him and his later life’s legacy that made many people easily identify or reject him according to the divergent views they held of him. Finally the article analysis concludes with an overview of why he appealed to a much wider spectrum of black American politicians and youth who acclaimed that he was an embodiment of the African-American folk culture two central figures mainly the: minister/hustler/preacher and trickster that mainly make up the make him context of the black Americans historical culture throughout the decades as a means of stressing why he manages to remain relevant and still be celebrated till now. The study has mostly utilized the text from his initial autobiography and in addition it has also reviewed work done by a film maker to help bring out the divergent views and fill the gaps that the autobiography didn’t cover.


In the mid-20th century, Malcolm X (1925-1965) emerged as an instrumental and significant political figure in the U.S and a significant international attention has been received focusing on his life and legacy. He could be described as a visionary, an American Muslim, a fighter against oppression and injustice, a caller to Muslim and a lover of knowledge. He advocated for self-respect, Black Nationalism, and white oppression uncompromising resistance. Malcolm X alienated and frightened many whites as a polarizing figure that both divided and energized African Americans.

His unrelenting truth telling made him declare publicly that the civil rights mainstream movement that aimed at attaining freedom through nonviolence and integration means was naive. Often, his messages complexity was overshadowed by his rhetoric blazing heat especially for those who in the first place found him threatening. In this light Malcolm X remains one of the Civil Rights era controversial figures. He is respected generally for change during one of history’s most deadly and trying times for black leaders. It is with this introduction of Malcolm X exploits, life and possibility of future studies that this essay seeks to explore further.

Malcolm X Four Phases

It is through these four main transitional phases of development that the iconic leader Malcolm X managed to develop into the leadership dimensions he became renowned for mainly as an educator and a transformational leader. The foundations for his educational and leadership legacy are mostly based on these four main areas of his transformational stages. While his main starting grounds for leadership can be found in the four phases of change that he underwent, the main mechanism that makes it work well together can be found in his educational legacy. Together his educational comments and way of leadership has been found to clearly provide a clear emulation model in which his legacy can survive up to now. The four main phases that are being discussed include; Malcolm little, Detroit red, National leader; Malcolm X and the El Hajj Malik el Shabazz/ Malcolm X respectively;

Malcolm little (phase one)

This occurred between 1925 to early 1945, where Malcolm X was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1925 as Malcolm Little to the parents Louise and Earl Little. Of the eight children, Malcolm was the seventh. The family had to move to Michigan due to the racist threats her sister Earl received after her anti-racist preaching’s based on Marcus Garvey ideologies. When Malcolm was 6 years old, his father was murdered by white supremacists. Due to this their only means of survival was from government assistance in which, Earl Little had to use to support her family and keep them together even though it was a struggle this continued until Malcolm was 11 years old. But by the time Malcolm was 12, the Little family under the orders of the Michigan State Welfare System had to be split up into different foster homes for support. This was mainly since Louise Little, Malcolm’s mother was considered incapable of taking care of them since she got sent to an insane asylum.

During this hard period and even after losing his parents, Malcolm enrolled at the Mason Junior High School and still managed to remain an exceptional student. In the 7th grade, he was elected class president and in the 8th grade, he maintained his position as a top student. However, Malcolm lost interest after Mr. Ostrowski, his white English teacher discouraged him from being a lawyer. In 1941, after completing his 8th grade, Malcolm moved to live with Ella, his eldest sister in Boston, Massachusetts. Malcolm’s life was influenced and altered by the fast money and the city life putting an end to his innocent childhood phase.

Detroit red (phase two)

 This phase Happened in 1941 to 1952 when Malcolm was aged between 16 to 27 years. After moving to Boston, he got involved in the crime and street life in Harlem, despite Ella advising him otherwise. He spent six and a half years in State prison after eventually being caught for burglary. Malcolm while in prison was assisted by Bimbi, a jailhouse philosopher to help turn his life around. Bambi taught him the value of learning and studies. Additionally, Malcolm was introduced to the Black Nationalist teachings of Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam organizations by his sibling that this helped usher in a positive transformation in his life.

National leader; Malcolm X (Phase 3)

The third phase occurred mainly in 1952 to 1963 while aged between 27 and38 years. When Malcolm went to Detroit to start a new positive phase in his life, after being released from prison, he became the National Spokesperson for Nation of Islam and Elijah Muhammad and became Minister Malcolm X. In 1958, at the age of 33, Malcolm married Betty Shabazz and they had 6 daughters together he later moved his entire family to Harlem, NY from Detroit. Malcolm in the New York spotlight soon became a national figure and one of the most respected and successful black leaders in the 1960’s African American liberation movement.

El Hajj Malik el Shabazz/ Malcolm X (Phase four)

This phase occurred between 1964 to 1965 when Malcolm X became recognized as an international leader after leaving the Nation of Islam and opting to travel to various countries. Malcolm began to occasionally use the name El Hajj Malik el Shabazz mainly after his return from Mecca, Saudi Arabia. He later started his own organization after returning to the U.S. called the Organization of Afro-American Unity. Several black Muslims loyal to the Nation of Islam assassinated Malcolm X in February 1965, at Harlem, Audubon Ballroom permanently marking his international status as a prominent international figure.

Impact of the phases

In terms of these varied changes, Malcolm’s views to the evolving America’s racial problems clearly demonstrate his character development. As a child, seeing the white society destroying both his parents left a mushrooming need to fight for the black’s plight. His experiences in the black New York and Boston ghettos help change his attitude and lead him towards development of black people should not accept help from white people philosophy. In prison, the Nation of Islam teachings that he received helped effect further changes in both his view and character towards white people. He embraces a systematic hatred of whites and simultaneously abandons his wild past (Allen, 423).

Another profound change is found in his later travels in the Middle East that cause him to ideally break from the American Nation of Islam. This also coincides with his newfound belief that eventually the blacks will succeeded in their quest of attaining equal rights if they recognize and coincide with others struggling the same globally. His previous beliefs contrast with his later attitude in that earlier he never supported white’s participation in the black emancipation struggle, whereas he now does. Only after the race problem from so many different perspectives and undergoing the different transformation phase is when Malcolm X was able to settle on a philosophy in which he truly believes. In addition, after all the phases, Malcolm understanding of whites and black was enhanced enabling him to think differently than when he started. Malcolm learns to see beyond America’s race problems later in Mecca as he digs more firmly into his black identity.

He returns to the United States with a message of impartial commitment and racial tolerance to justice and truth since he now had a feeling of brotherhood with the white-skinned Muslim. After the phases he came up with the ideology that among the American black’s allies the most promising are the nonwhite, oppressed people of the world. By the end of his life he nevertheless had developed a much broader perspective on racism. His initial interpretation of the white’s hatred as a personal attack directed towards him that he must fend off for himself, led him to the understanding that all must unite to combat racism in a worldwide scale and this is one aspect that his phases of change help bring out.


Malcolm X symbolized self-respect and black defiance and was one of the greatest forces that shaped the current interpretation and understanding given to violence and conflict in the current global politics. To an increasingly militant generation of young African Americans, he became a seminal figure in death, a beacon for activists in the Black Arts movements and 1960s Black Power. Theologian James Cone wrote in his assessment of Malcolm X’s impact that: More than anyone else Malcolm X transformed docile Negroes, revolutionizing their mind and self-effacing colored people into self-confident and proud blacks African-Americans. Malcolm X by the end of the 20th century was recognized as a hero of the civil rights era in mainstream culture. The militant radical whose image once provoked hatred and fear among many white American remains currently celebrated in elementary school classrooms Black History Month posters and mainstream movie theaters, and a United States government 1999 issue postage stamp as a one of a kind leader in world history

Works Cited

Allen, R. et al., “A. Schema-based Approach to Modeling an African-American Racial Belief System”, American Political Science Review: Quarterly Journal of the American Political Science Association.(.83)(2) (1989):422 – 423.

Goldman, P. “Malcolm X: Witness for the Prosecution,” J. H. Franklin and A. Meier (eds), Black Leaders of the Twentieth Century. (Illinois: University Illinois Press, 1982).

Norton, M. A. People & Nation: A History of the United States.(Brief edn). (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1984).

Oates, S. B. Let the Trumpet Sound; The Life of Martin Luther King Jr. (London: Oxford, 1982).

Malcolm, X. and Haley, A. The Autobiography of Malcolm X . (New York: Onew World Books, February 1992),