Interview Excerpts of Wilfred Little
In these interview excerpts, family and friends remember Malcolm X. Malcolm X's eldest brother Wilfred Little (also Wilfred X) was also a member of the Nation of Islam. He was a teacher and community activist in Detroit.
An Adventuresome Child
Each of us as children, we all had our personalities and my mother respected that. She dealt with us according to what our characteristics and personality was. She was able to see us and see into us and she knew just what each one — she had a way of cataloging us — and she knew what each one was good for and she would work with our strengths and our weaknesses to help to us to continuously improve on ourselves.
Malcolm was a person that was always adventuresome and never stayed still too long. He had a lot of mental energy and physical energy. And he was always — even as a child — always challenging whatever situation there was around or accepting challenges. He liked to play. When a group would start playing, Malcolm would end up being the one that was leading the group.
Growing Up in Lansing
In Lansing at that time everything was circumscribed; you had a place that you're supposed to be and you knew what your place was and that's where you're going to be. And you didn't try to change this unless you had some independent thinking of your own. The school system, the environment was the kind that really directed you in the path that they wanted you to be in and many of the black people in the city of Lansing had submitted to this and were willing to go along with this. And whenever you came along with something else you appeared to be an oddball or you were rocking the boat. And you had black people in the city of Lansing in those days who were considered the leaders and these leaders weren't chosen by the people, they were chosen by the white community.
They would tell you who your leader is, "Your leader is Reverend So-and-so" or your leader is whoever they decided was "a good nigger" and wanted you to pattern after — that's what you were given as your leaders. And these people who were in that position were then given little rewards; they were allowed to have a few things that the rest of them didn't. They got the good jobs, like they got the good janitor job working in the Capitol Building. Or they got the best shoeshine stand, they got the one that was located right and this was considered a plum. So whenever you began to rock the boat, they would give you more of a problem than white people would because they didn't want you rocking this boat; "You might make me lose my good thing here." And that's the way it was back in those days.