Malcolm X is one of the most pivotal figures in civil rights history. His powerful words captured the attention of a country, encouraging empowerment and inspiring pride in black heritage.
Malcolm became interested in different religious views after his brother, Reginald, talked to him about his conversion to the Muslim religious organization the Nation of Islam. Intrigued, Malcolm studied the teachings of Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad. Muhammad taught that white society actively worked to keep African-Americans from empowering themselves and achieving political, economic and social success. Among other goals, the Nation of Islam fought for a state of their own, separate from one inhabited by white people. By the time he was paroled from a jail sentence in 1952, Malcolm was a devoted follower with the new surname “X”. He considered “Little” a slave name and chose the “X” to signify his lost tribal name.
Intelligent and articulate, Malcolm was appointed a minister and national spokesman for the Nation of Islam. Malcolm was largely credited with increasing membership in the Nation of Islam from 500 in 1952 to 30,000 in 1963. Malcolm’s vivid personality captured the government’s attention in addition to the media. As membership in the Nation of Islam continued to grow, FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) agents infiltrated the organization (one even acted at Malcolm’s bodyguard) and secretly placed bugs, wiretaps and cameras surveillance equipment to monitor the group’s activities.