Malcolm’s parents were students of Marcus Garvey and members of the Universal Negro Improvement Association.
His father, Earl Little, was a Baptist preacher and a leader in their local UNIA chapter in Omaha, Nebraska. His mother Louise was the chapter secretary.
They faced countless threats from the Ku Klux Klan and were forced to move from Nebraska.
They first traveled to Milwaukee before later relocating to Lansing, Michigan. Unfortunately, the intimidation tactics by the Klan did not stop.
In 1929, when Malcolm was 4 years old, the Black Legion (a splinter group of the KKK) burned down their home in Michigan.
Two short years later, Malcolm's father was killed by the KKK.
When Malcolm was 13, his mother entered Kalamazoo State Hospital following a nervous breakdown, sending Malcolm and his seven siblings to various foster families, boarding houses, and state-run institutions.
Despite his rough upbringing, Malcolm was an excellent student who wanted to become a lawyer. But he dropped out after eighth grade when a teacher told him that being a lawyer was “no realistic goal for a nigger.”
At the age of 21, Malcolm was sentenced to 10 years in prison. While incarcerated, his brother Reginald urged him to convert to the Nation of Islam, and Malcolm soon started studying and then corresponding with its founder the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, who much like Malcolm's parents, preached black power and self-reliance.
After getting out of prison on parole in 1952, he quickly became a well-known figure within the Nation. The NOI membership grew over 1000% from 1952 to 1962 and Malcolm X and his charisma was one of the primary reasons.
The FBI created a file on Malcolm X because of his opposition to the Korean war but his affiliation with the Nation of Islam and fear of Black Muslim radicals would keep him under surveillance from the time he left prison to the time he died.
The so-called "rivalry" between Dr. King and Malcolm is often overstated.
When two Black men become influential to their people and rival one another, the oppressor is satisfied. But when we show love and unity amongst each other, our power manifests exponentially.
Truth is, Martin was a fighter just like Malcolm was a dreamer.
And towards the ends of both of their lives as their political and social philosophies evolved and matured they became closer in ideals.
Who knows what kind of change would occur if these two were able to truly unite their respective movements.