was an African American
Muslim minister and human rights activist. To his admirers, he was a
courageous advocate for the rights of blacks, a man who indicted white
America in the harshest terms for its crimes against black Americans.
Detractors accused him of preaching racism, black supremacy, and violence. He has been called one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history.
Part of Malcolm X's impact had to do with the way he stood apart from
other African American leaders. Not only did he reject the nonviolent
ways of Martin Luther King, Jr., and his followers—a civil rights
movement that worked toward the gradual integration of African Americans
into American society—but he also took issue with black churches and
the role Christianity played in subduing the legitimate aspirations of
African Americans. Still, Malcolm outgrew his role as Black Muslim
dissenter, rejecting as well the black separatism of the Nation of
Islam. This aspect of his evolution is reflected not so much in his
public speeches as in his autobiography, in which he treats his life as a
political and spiritual pilgrimage that ultimately led him to question
his more radical views about revolution and the white power structure.