This aspect of Malcolm’s philosophy caused a huge rise in African Americans’ participation in the Islamic world and their interest in their Islamic roots. He is largely responsible for the spread of the Nation of Islam in America’s black community. There were several aspects of the Nation of Islam that made it different from Orthodox Muslim Church, and these made the movement more appealing to the black ghetto-dwellers. Unlike Orthodox Islam, the Nation of Islam does not believe in the equality of all. They believe in the superiority of blacks, and the inferiority and inherent vileness of whites.
This appealed to certain members of the black community who saw “the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent [white] society. ” (MLK) Malcolm is most widely known as an advocate for black pride. He eschewed anything that could be considered to be a self-denial of one’s blackness. One prime example of this in the memoir is Malcolm extreme disapproval of the hairstyle known as the “conk”. Malcolm saw this as an emblem of self-hatred and the attempt to achieve the impossible and be white by conforming to white standards of beauty.
He considered it “the emblem of his shame that he is black. ” (Haley, 65) Malcolm encouraged his followers not to be ashamed of their blackness, and to be proud of it and their African features. He is largely credited with reconnecting thousands of black Americans with their African roots and raising their self-esteem by affirming that being black is not a shameful or unattractive quality. This was a theme that was relied on heavily in the Black Power and “Black Is Beautiful” movements. Unfortunately, a great portion of Malcolm X’s legacy is tied up in his death.
Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965 by three black men. Much controversy surrounds his death, with multiple conspiracy theories circulating. Being assassinated at the peak of his career, when many considered him to be truly beginning to make a difference, elevated him to the status of a martyr. He was perceived as one of the most famous symbols of black pride after his death. Malcolm’s death actually inspired the co-founder of the Black Panthers, which played a large role in the Black Power Movement.
The co-founder, Bobby Seale, reportedly said of Malcolm’s death, “I’ll make my own self into a Malcolm X, and if they want to kill me they’ll have to kill me… Malcolm X had an impact on everybody like that. ” (Enisuoh) I personally do not believe that the Black Power movement could have been as successful as it was without the rhetoric and presence of Malcolm X. Malcolm X’s inflammatory ideas and manner of speaking translated into the activism of the next generation of civil rights activists, especially in the Black Panther and Black Power movements.
If Malcolm had one, lasting message for us today, it would be that blackness does not indicate inferiority. Throughout his life he strove to stress this point to black Americans. He did not want black people to feel that they had to deny any part of themselves; he wanted them to embrace the parts of them that tied them to their African roots. Though his actions and ideas did help form his legacy, he stood for more than that. He stood for Black Power, black independence after centuries of dependence, and loving oneself. Malcolm looked to the self-loathing black man in the ghetto and showed him that he should be proud.
He saved generations of black Americans from growing up ashamed or unaware of their race and heritage. For these and many other reasons, Malcolm X and his legacy will never be forgotten.
Works Cited Enisuoh, Andrea. “The Life and Legacy of Malcolm X. ” Socialist Alternative. 1993. Web. 13 Oct. 2010. <http://www. socialistalternative. org/literature/malcolmx. html>. X, Malcolm, and Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Ballantine, 1992. Print. King Jr. , Martin Luther. “Letter from a Birmingham Jail [King, Jr. ]. ” African Studies Center, University of Pennsylvania.
Web. 22 Oct. 2010. <http://www. africa. upenn. edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham. html>. “Malcolm X – Newsweek. ” Newsweek – National News, World News, Business, Health, Technology, Entertainment, and More – Newsweek. Newsweek, 16 Nov. 1992. Web. 22 Oct. 2010. <http://www. newsweek. com/1992/11/16/malcolm-x. html>. Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree 1950-1999 section.