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Civil rights leader Born Malcolm Little in Omaha Nebraska Malcolm was the son of a Baptist preacher who was a follower of Marcus Garvey After the Ku Klux Klan made threats against his father the family moved to Lansing Michigan There in the face of similar threats he continued to urge blacks to take control of their lives Malcolms father was slain by the Klan-like Black Legionaries Although he was found with his head crushed on one side and almost severed from his body it was claimed he had committed suicide and the family was denied his death benefit The familys disintegration quickly followed welfare caseworkers sought to turn the children against each other and against their mother from whom Malcolm then six was taken and placed in a foster home Mrs Little underwent a nervous breakdown from which she never recovered After the eighth grade Malcolm dropped out of school headed for a life of crime He wore zoot suits straightened his hair to affect a white look and became known as Detroit Red At the age of 21 he was sent to prison for burglary where he encountered the teachings of Elijah Muhammad leader of the Lost-Found Nation of Islam popularly known as the Black Muslims Muhammads thesis that the white man is the devil with whom blacks cannot live had a strong impact on Malcolm Turning to an ascetic way of life and immersing himself in books he began to overcome the degradation he had known The argument that only blacks can cure the ills that afflict them confirmed for Malcolm the power of Muhammads faith He became a loyal disciple and adopted X--symbolic of a stolen identity--as his last name After six years Malcolm was released from prison Later he became the minister of Temple No 7 in Harlem and his indictments of racism and his advocacy of self-defense elicited admiration as well as fear far beyond the New York black
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