Notable Accomplishments of Malcolm X

Achievements of Malcolm X

Achievements of Malcolm X. Image source:

Malcolm X (1925-1965) was an African-American Islamic leader in the U.S.A, who was very instrumental in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. He preferred to use what could be seen today as radical approaches in his fight for fair treatment for the black community. Regardless, his name was indelibly written in our nation’s history due to the sheer amount of influence he had on it. The following are 8 notable achievements of Malcolm X:

The Nation of Islam (NOI)

Malcolm X got imprisoned in 1946 for engaging in an armed robbery. When he was paroled in 1952, Malcolm became an active member of a Black Muslim group known as the NOI (Nation of Islam).

The NOI, which was headed by Elijah Muhammad, used Islam to foster Black Nationalism.  In accordance with the rules of the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X dropped his surname “Little” after he joined the NOI. The members had a custom of replacing their surnames with an “X”. NOI members argued that their original surnames had their roots from white slave masters.

Religious Minister

In our second notable accomplishments of Malcolm X, we shall explore his contributions made to the black community as a religious minister. The Nation of Islam transformed Malcolm X into a powerful leader. He was the founder of the newspaper for NOI, titled Muhammad Speaks. Malcolm instructed NOI members to sell the group’s newspaper in order to raise funds. The newspaper was also used as powerful tool to recruit new members.

Malcolm X’s presence in the Nation of Islam ushered in multitudes of new members, numbering over 500,000 people. He soon won the admiration of Elijah Muhammad and became a minister in charge of a temple in Boston, Massachusetts. In recognition of his leadership abilities, Malcolm X was later put in charge of Temple Number 7, the greatest and most prestigious NOI temple at the time.

Greater responsibility was added to Malcolm when Elijah Mohammed appointed him the national representative of the NOI. As an eloquent public speaker, X became a strong critic of the U.S government. Using what could be described as a tone of anger and frustration, Malcolm addressed big streets and renowned educational institutions, including the University of Oxford and Harvard University. He lamented the poor economic and political conditions of black lives in the U.S.A

Proposals and NOI Teachings

While at the NOI Malcolm X preached in accordance with the somewhat extremist ideologies of the the group. He proposed that blacks should think about going back to resettle in Africa. He also opined that a full country should be separately created for only blacks in the U.S.

Malcolm X preached against racial integration. The NOI went further to forbid its members from taking part in politics. The quest for voting for rights did not matter to them. They preferred to sit on the fence and criticize the whites. Due to the controversial teachings of the NOI, many civil rights groups did not endorse their radical attitude. On the other hand, Malcolm X’s powerful speeches convinced a lot of black people that they could no longer continue waiting for unpromising days of equality and fairness. He successfully convinced the famed boxer, Muhammad Ali, to become a member of NOI.

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Coining of “African-American”

In contrast with the methodologies of a fellow black civil rights activists such as Martin Luther King, Malcolm X initially didn’t welcome the idea of nonviolence and racial integration. According to him, there was more to be done about civil rights than Africans folding their arms and resorting only to peaceful protests. Malcolm X believed in African identity, freedom, and independence. He loathed the racially offensive word “negro”. His lifestyle inspired the formation of many black empowerment groups. More importantly, he helped to introduce a new term “American-American” when referring to black people. Thus, “negro” and “colored” were deemed offensive.

Departure from the Nation of Islam

By 1963, Malcolm X’s rising fame had put him at loggerheads with the top leaders of NOI. Malcolm X wanted the NOI to be more actively involved in the civil rights movement. He believed the time for lip service was over. His relationship with his boss (Elijah Muhammad) grew sour when the latter morally misconducted himself. When Malcolm X appeared to rejoice over the assassination of President F. Kennedy, he and Elijah did not see eye to eye. These and many more other reasons resulted in  X departure from the NOI in 1964.

Read More: Most Influential African American Activists: From Malcolm X to John Lewis

Establishment of the Muslim Mosque

His exit from the group created a new space for X to rediscover himself. Malcolm X formed a new Muslim union called, the Muslim Mosque. He then went on pilgrimage to Mecca and became a member of Sunni Islam, adopting the name Malik Shabazz.

Meeting with Luther King and Senate Debate

After his departure from the NOI, Malcolm X expressed interest in working with other civil rights groups. In March 1964, he took part in a civil rights debate in the U.S Senate. There, he met with Martin Luther King Jr. It was their first and only meeting. On 2nd July 1964, the 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed.  Malcolm X delivered a fiery speech titled “The Ballot or the Bullet”. His speech called on blacks to use their voting rights intelligently while warning the U.S government that, African-Americans might resort to arms if it fails to promise full equality.

Malcolm X (right) and Martin Luther King Jr. meet up at the U.S. Capitol, 1964

Established the Organization of Afro-American Unity (O.A.A.U) Foundation

After joining Sunni Islam, Malcolm X regretted his years spent with the NOI. He began to preach racial integration and equality. He toured a number of African countries and addressed the O.A.U (the African Union) about the racial problems in America and the way forward. In 1964, Malcolm X created a new foundation called the O.A.A.U – the Organization of Afro-American Unity. He used the O.A.A.U as the gateway to unify Africans and gather momentum to fight for human rights.

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Malcolm X’s Legacy after his Assassination

While X continued to rise higher in activism, he often criticized the teachings of his former group (the NOI), including its leader Elijah Muhammad. After receiving numerous death threats, Malcolm X was cowardly assassinated on 21st February 1965, by 3 members of the NOI- Thomas Johnson, Norman Butler, and Thomas Hagan. This occurred while he was preparing to deliver a speech at Harlem.  Malcolm X was survived by his  wife, Betty Shabazz and 6 children.

Despite his untimely death at the age of 39, Malcolm X ideologies opened the eyes of black Americans to appreciate their African identity. Since his demise, Malcolm X Day has been set aside as a holiday in many jurisdictions to commemorate the achievements of Malcolm X in his role as a human and civil rights activist.

Malcolm X

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