On 21 February 1965, Black Nationalist leader Malcolm X was assassinated.

The following is a short film by Liam Donovon featuring a recording of The Ballot or the Bullet speech, set to music by the film’s director.Malcolm X was born in Omaha in 1925 as Malcolm Little. His father, a Baptist minister, was an outspoken follower of Marcus Garvey, the Black Nationalist leader of the 1920s.

The family moved to Lansing, Michigan, and when Malcolm was six years old his father was murdered after receiving death threats from the Ku Klux Klan. Malcolm’s mother suffered a nervous breakdown and he and his eight siblings were taken into care by the welfare department.

He was sent first to a foster home and then to a reform school. After the eighth grade, he moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where he worked at various jobs, eventually becoming involved in criminal activity. In 1946 he received a prison sentence for burglary.

Inside he became interested in the teachings of Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Black Muslims, also known as The Nation of Islam. He subsequently spent his time in prison educating himself and learning more about the Black Muslims, who advocated racial separation.

On his release in 1952, he joined a Black Muslim temple in Detroit and changed his surname from Little to X, symbolically replacing the name derived from the heritage of slavery to represent the unknown name of his African ancestors.

By the early 1960s, the Nation of Islam had become well known and Malcolm was their most prominent spokesperson. In 1963, however, he was suspended from the organisation for his remark that the assassination of John F. Kennedy was like “the chickens coming home to roost”. In the following year, he broke with the Nation of Islam altogether and formed a secular black nationalist group, the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU).

In 1964 Malcolm made a hajj (pilgrimage) to the Islamic holy city of Mecca. As a result of this trip and other travels to Africa and Europe he adopted the Arabic name El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz and renounced his previous teaching that all whites are evil. 

He was assassinated by three Black Muslim members while addressing an OAAU rally in New York. 

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