February is Black History Month, and in the spirit of this commemoration, it’s important for us to reflect on some of the most important people who created history for us to appreciate.
There were many historic events that changed the African American culture in the early days. The one major event was the Civil Rights Movement. This was a movement in the United States beginning in the 1960’s and led primarily by African Americans in an effort to establish the civil rights of individual black citizens.
However, when we think about the Civil Rights movement and the leaders of it, many of us only think of Martin Luther King Jr. Of course, MLK was majorly influential in the Civil Rights Movement and he changed the future for the better, but sometimes we can forget that he wasn’t the only leader.
One of those other leaders was Malcolm X. Malcolm X was born in 1925, and his father, before he died, fought for equal rights for blacks and whites. His father was the president of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Once Malcolm X’s father passed away, Malcolm wanted to follow in his footsteps in the fight for equal rights.
In 1946, Malcolm X was sent to prison for eight to ten years for burglary. While he was in prison, he received letters from his brother Reginald about the Nation of Islam. The Nation of Islam is a group of people who practice the Muslim religion. Malcolm X found that joining this religion was a manner in which to fight for equality. Once he was released from prison, he became an assistant minister in 1953 and moved to Boston to start a new Islamic temple.
In 1958, Malcolm X married Betty X, and over the next six years they had four children. Malcolm X began his ministry in big northern cities like Detroit, Philadelphia, Boston, and New York. It didn’t take him long to become well known. Even the FBI attended his speeches, possibly because they were offended by the messages of equality he preached.
Malcolm X wanted things to be one hundred percent fair between all races. He wanted equal job opportunities, equal wages, equal educational opportunities, and day to day equality. However, unlike Martin Luther King, Jr., and Jesse Jackson’s peaceful protests, Malcolm X’s protest were sometimes violent because he encouraged people to fight for their equal rights “by any means necessary.”
Another Civil Rights Leader was the president of the United States in the 1960’s, John F. Kennedy. During JFK’s Presidential Inaugural address in 1961, he promised to end racial discrimination. JFK ended discrimination on buses, housing, voting, and education. In 1964 the Civil Rights Act was passed, but President JFK didn’t get to see it enacted because he had been assassinated in November of 1963.
This February, let’s remember that MLK wasn’t the only leader to make progress towards racial equality. Both Malcom X and JFK were also great Civil Rights Leaders that changed the way other minorities are treated today. Take this time to think about how you too can be a leader in the fight against inequality.