Dusty Quotations


Who is Malcolm X?

Malcolm X (born Malcolm Little, later el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz; May 19, 1925 – February 21, 1965) was an American Muslim minister and human rights activist who was a prominent figure during the civil rights movement. A spokesman for the Nation of Islam until 1964, he was a vocal advocate for Black empowerment and the promotion of Islam within the Black community. A posthumous autobiography, on which he collaborated with Alex Haley, was published in 1965.

Malcolm spent his adolescence living in a series of foster homes or with relatives after his father’s death and his mother’s hospitalization. He committed various crimes, being sentenced to 10 years in prison in 1946 for larceny and burglary. In prison he joined the Nation of Islam (adopting the name Malcolm X to symbolize his unknown African ancestral surname while discarding “the White slavemaster name of ‘Little'”), and after his parole in 1952 quickly became one of the organization’s most influential leaders. He was the public face of the organization for 12 years, advocating Black empowerment and separation of Black and White Americans, and criticizing Martin Luther King Jr. and the mainstream civil rights movement for its emphasis on nonviolence and racial integration. Malcolm X also expressed pride in some of the Nation’s social welfare achievements, such as its free drug rehabilitation program. From the 1950s onward, Malcolm X was subjected to surveillance by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

In the 1960s, Malcolm X began to grow disillusioned with the Nation of Islam, as well as with its leader, Elijah Muhammad. He subsequently embraced Sunni Islam and the civil rights movement after completing the Hajj to Mecca, and became known as “el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz,” which roughly translates to “The Pilgrim Malcolm the Patriarch”. After a brief period of travel across Africa, he publicly renounced the Nation of Islam and founded the Islamic Muslim Mosque, Inc. (MMI) and the Pan-African Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU). Throughout 1964, his conflict with the Nation of Islam intensified, and he was repeatedly sent death threats. On February 21, 1965, he was assassinated in New York City. Three Nation members were charged with the murder and given indeterminate life sentences; in 2021, two of the convictions were vacated. Speculation about the assassination and whether it was conceived or aided by leading or additional members of the Nation, or with law enforcement agencies, has persisted for decades.

A controversial figure accused of preaching racism and violence, Malcolm X is also a widely celebrated figure within African-American and Muslim American communities for his pursuit of racial justice. He was posthumously honored with Malcolm X Day, on which he is commemorated in various cities across the United States. Hundreds of streets and schools in the U.S. have been renamed in his honor, while the Audubon Ballroom, the site of his assassination, was partly redeveloped in 2005 to accommodate the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center.

One of the blessing of living in the present is ready access, not just to the words of speakers from the past, but video (assuming that person lived within the last 80 years or so.) Embedded below is a speech given by Malcolm X in 1964, not long before his death:

6 thoughts on “Dusty Quotations

    1. Bookie, your question feels combative. I don’t know if that is your intention, or not. “Dusty Quotations” are a combo of interesting (IMO) quotes from historical figures, followed by short histories about the lives of the people I’ve quoted. When possible, I like to include video speeches or interviews after the wiki history. I’ve done more of them than I can count, about a wide variety of people, and I use the same format for all of these. My assumption is that readers will like some of the folks being quoted, but not like others of them. Either way, I hope that a short history lesson is delivered.


      1. I guess I was shocked to see you present cherry picked quotes from such a violence inciting racist.
        Kind of like if you had presented Stalin as a man of peace.
        I wasn’t trying to be combative but didn’t know how else to ask, so I just kept it short.

      2. The quote isn’t “cheery picked.” It’s a quote he’s relatively famous for saying – just like nearly all of the other quotes I’ve ever shared.

        As for sharing a quote from someone who incited violence, if you read through the biographies of the other people I’ve quoted over the years, many of them incited or participated in violence. X is also pretty famous for saying “Nonviolence is fine as long as it works.” It’s possible his views had some nuance. In any case, sharing the history of someone who advocated violence isn’t the same thing as promoting their beliefs.

        As for him being a racist, 1) he might have been, 2) his views on race changed throughout his life per his own admission, 3) he was killed while still young, so we don’t know into what his beliefs would have evolved, and 4) many of the people I have quoted have expressed (through words or actions) racist views. If you try to avoid the history wherein the historical figure had racist views, you’re going to have a very incomplete picture of history. Unfortunately, for most of history, societies have been racist to varying degrees. I think the Civil Rights Movement, and all of its facets, are incredibly important and interesting, and Malcolm X played a big role. If white racism beget black racism, would that be surprising? It’s worth talking about in any case.

        In any case, I don’t mind discussing the people I quote. That’s largely the point of these posts.
        I’m not a big fan of being asked to defend my decision to provide a very shallow history lesson about a famous historical figure (you first accused me of promoting him, and then you accused me of cherry picking quotes.) Those discussion points are about me, not Malcolm X. If at some point I quote Stalin, it won’t be because I admire those who seize the means of production and/or implement devastating 5 year plans. It will be because he’s an incredibly important historical figure and even the bad ones merit examination.

      3. I just want to take this moment to apologize for causing you a problem on your blog and reassure you that it won’t happen again.
        Nobody needs to deal w that….