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Picture of Malcom X
Malcom X: Profile

"We have kept Malcolm X alive in our hearts and our culture," the poet Nikki Giovanni wrote, "because he embodies our dreams of transformation and redemption." Born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska, he was a petty hustler, thief, pimp and drug addict who changed the course of his life after converting to the Black Muslim movement while serving a prison term. Blessed with intelligence, charisma and rhetorical flair, Malcolm energized African Americans, particularly in Northern cities, with his withering broadsides against racist hypocrisy. "The common goal of 22 million Afro-Americans is respect as human beings, the God-given right to be a human being," he wrote in 1965. After breaking with the Black Muslims, Malcolm converted to orthodox Islam and made a holy pilgrimage to Mecca. It was there, while worshipping among Moslems of all colors, that Malcolm decided to accept as allies anyone (including whites) who would stand with black people in their struggle for freedom and justice. "Despite my firm convictions, I have always been a man who tries to face facts..." he wrote from Mecca. "I have always kept an open mind, which is necessary to the flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent search for truth."

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