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El Hajj Malik El Shabazz: A Man of Change and Strength

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El Hajj Malik El Shabazz: A Man of Change and Strength

If there was any one man who demonstrated the anger, the struggle, and the beliefs of African Americans in the 1960s, that man was Malcolm X. The African American cultural movement of the 1920s lost momentum in the 1930s because of worldwide economic depression. The Great Depression helped to divert attention from cultural to economic matters. Even before the stock market crash of 1929, unemployment and poverty among blacks was exceptionally high. It was under these difficult conditions that Malcolm X experienced his youth in the South. Malcolm X was a very controversial character in his time. He grew up in a very large family. His father hunted rabbits to sell to the white people for money, and his mother stayed home to take care of all the children. Several times when he was young, his family was forced to relocate due to the racist groups that would burn or run them out of their home like the Ku Klux Klan. One of these groups called the Black Legion killed his father by tying him to the railroad tracks. Malcolm's father had life insurance but was not given to his family because they said that Earl Little had committed suicide. This was quite impossible because his head was bashed in and he tied himself to the railroad. Without his father's income, Malcolm's family was forced to get government help and food. Applying for this type of assistance brought many white Social Workers into their home. They asked questions and interrogated the entire family. Malcolm's mother always refused to talk or let them in.


This did not stop them and they came in anyway. Malcolm, without family discipline and restrictions, often could be found wandering the streets of Roxbury. Without parental or adult guidance of any kind and due to the poor conditions in his home, Malcolm began to steal food. Finally, he was caught. The police did not make a big deal about it, because it was his first offense. The Social Workers however, began investigating his family even more intensely. They used this incident against the family. They reported that Malcolm's mother could not take proper care of her children and recommended that they be split up and placed in different foster homes.

Malcolm did not realize he was getting government help. He also did not realize that the nice Social Workers who would sometimes slip him treats were really out to put him in a foster home. As a boy Malcolm did not have the capability of seeing through the thin mask of help provided by the White Man's Society. He did not understand what was really behind the white man's intentions, until later on in his life. When he was put in a foster home, it had the image of being a well put together facility. The foster home did send him to school and teach him. But it taught him to be ashamed of being a Negro. It also taught him that he should never try to aspire to be anything more than a trade's man. An example of this was when one day, Malcolm and one of his teachers were having a conference. When asked if he had given any thought to a career, Malcolm answered that he wanted to become a lawyer. This appalled Malcolm's teacher who tried eagerly to convince him that he should be more realistic in learning a trade, such as carpentry.

Even though he received a good education, Malcolm was one of a kind. He received the best grades in his class, and really was one of the smartest in the class. The government


wanted to use Malcolm as an example of how Negro mothers could not properly raise their children and that if more children were put into foster homes the world would be a better place. What most of the Negroes did not realize was that by letting the white man educate their black children, they were letting the white man plant a seed of dissention that led to a separation between the educated and non-educated Negroes. This separation was the goal of white man.

His half sister Ella offered to pay for his passage to Boston where Malcolm was exposed to many new things. One of those things was hustling. Hustles are things that many blacks in big cities use to try to get rich. An example of a hustle was selling reefers. Selling reefers, although illegal, was a good way for a Negro to make a lot of money, as long as he does not get caught. But not many Negroes got rich from hustles. What hustles they used, without getting caught, were only used to survive. That was the mentality of the Negro at this time, survival. Drugs became a big business in the ghettos because all the people living there were on a constant high just to keep their troubles away. Another popular hustle was pimping, or selling prostitutes. A person could make a lot of money pimping, because many whites enjoyed secretly indulging themselves with Negroes, males and females alike. At one point in his life, Malcolm was pimping in Harlem. From this experience he learned that many of the Whites who went looking for pleasures from Negroes were in fact very important politicians, or highly in the public eye. He became known as Detroit Red. He also found out that you could convince these politicians to give you high tips to keep your mouth shut. Malcolm ran many different hustles as a young man in Harlem.


He soon began to take more risks in the hustles that he ran in order to make more money. Although he was never caught in any of these hustles, the police became very familiar with him, and he was forced to go into hiding. Not being able to operate any of his old hustles, Malcolm went on to worse, more risky, but more profitable jobs. He began armed robberies and breaking and entering. Everything went well for him and his posse until he got caught with the stolen goods in his apartment. Normally a Negro would only serve a three year maximum term in jail for his offense, but Malcolm got caught with stolen goods and a white girlfriend. The judge gave Malcolm and his best friend seven years in prison.

In prison, Malcolm was introduced to the Muslim faith. He received teachings from the honorable Elijah Muhammad through one of his preachers, who was also serving time in prison. The teachings opened a whole new point of view for Malcolm, and let him see how his people were being abused and raped freely. As soon as he got out of prison he went directly to see the honorable Elijah Muhammad. Malcolm, who would become the greatest disciple of the honorable Elijah Muhammad, went around the country preaching the teachings of the honorable Elijah Muhammad. When he met Elijah Muhammad he was given the X to replace his birth name, Little. The reason was that Little was his "slave name" given by the white man and X represents unknown as it does in math.




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