Today is the anniversary of Malcolm X’s assassination. Malcolm X was also known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. An influential African-American Muslim minister, public speaker, and human rights activist, he once said: “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.”
And of course, he is a former resident of Lansing, Michigan.
Earl and Louise Little and their four children arrived in Lansing in 1929 when Malcolm was 4. The family had been living in a temporary home in Milwaukee after being terrorized by the Ku Klux Klan and driven out of Omaha.
The family’s time in Lansing was marked by tragedy. Early on, the family was ordered to leave their first home in northwest Lansing because of the restricted covenant which allowed only Caucasians to live there.
The house burned to the ground before the family was able to move. Malcolm’s father was charged with arson but exonerated. The family believed that an offshoot of the Ku Klux Klan set fire to the home.
In 1931, further tragedy struck when Earl Little either fell or, as Shabazz contends in her book, was thrown under a street car on West Michigan Avenue. She says that family stories and firstperson recollections lead her to believe that her grandfather was killed by the KKK. (Although, in a speech at MSU, Malcolm X pulled back from that theory.)
Earl Little’s death set in motion a series of events that would result in Malcolm X’s mother´s commitment to Kalamazoo State Hospital after a nervous breakdown.
At 13, Malcolm was sent to a foster home in Mason where he would excel as a student, but was also exposed to further racism.
Malcolm X wrote in his autobiography that a Mason teacher admonished him for aspiring to be a lawyer, telling him “A lawyer — that’s no realistic goal for a nigger.” Malcolm dropped out of school after eighth grade, moved to Boston and later Harlem where he fell into a life of crime. At 20, Malcolm was imprisoned for six years. While in prison, he converted to the Nation of Islam faith and would go on to become a leader in the group, first in Detroit then eventually New York.
Check out the Malcolm X Biography and Film available from Bio.com.
Also remember to visit Malcolm X, a research site.
Malcolm X Wikipedia entry.
Clay Taylor, “Malcolm X in Lansing”, Lansing City Pulse, September 12, 2007.
Norman (Otis) Richmond, ‘On the anniversary of Malcolm X’s birth (May 19, 1925), journalist and broadcaster Norman (Otis) Richmond shares his thoughts on how artists across time have preserved his legacy”, Ligali, May 19, 2011.
Bill Castanier, “How Malcolm became X; New young adult novel tells the story of Malcolm X’s formative years”, Lansing City Pulse, February 18, 2015.
Stateside Staff, “Before he was Malcolm X, Malcolm Little was just another Lansing kid“, Michigan Radio, February 21, 2018.