Born Malcolm Little, Malcolm X dropped his last name to represent the African family name that was lost in slavery. While spending six years in prison for burglary he became an avid reader and grew increasingly interested in the Nation of Islam, a relatively new movement that, in addition to its Muslim religious teachings, also espoused black pride and nationalism. After his release from prison in 1952, Malcolm X met with Nation of Islam leader Elijah Mohammad and quickly rose to prominence as a Muslim minister—speaking nationally and internationally on behalf of the movement. In the mid-1960s, he went on a pilgrimage to Mecca, known as the Hajj—a religious obligation that every able-bodied Muslim is asked to fulfill. Malcolm X dedicated more than ten years to the Nation of Islam before tensions with Elijah Mohammad led him to break with the movement in 1964. He was assassinated in 1965 while addressing the Organization of Afro-American Unity in Manhattan at the age of 39. The gunmen were associated with the Nation of Islam. Decades after his death, Malcolm X continues to be deeply influential in both African-American and popular culture.
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