The campaign to end slave trade in America was lengthy and unpleasant. On the 1st of January 1863, the U.S. president, Abraham Lincoln, declared the “Emancipation Proclamation”. This deemed that all slaves in the ‘rebellious’ states would be free people. Later that year, the president issued the “Proclamation for amnesty and Reconstruction”, this document provided an opportunity for the southern states to return to the Union after the American civil war, on the condition that they abolished slave trade. Even 50 years after the proclamations, slave trade occurred in America on an illegal basis.
Despite the abolition of slave trade, discriminatory behaviour against people of colour was still commonly accepted. Segregation was just one of the many struggles that black people faced; children were forced to attend schools based on their race and could not do simple things like have their choice of seating on a bus. White supremacist forces gained power and further pushed for segregation. Black people and white people had to be separated at all times, they could not be in the same railroad cars, hotels, theatres, restaurants or schools. Treatment was particularly harsh in the Southern, former confederate states. For a long time, black people were not recognised as American citizens.
The civil rights movement in America was the struggle for social justice for black people. They continued to suffer under the hand of extreme racism for decades but protested and campaigned through the adversity. Black Americans, along with many whites band together to fight for equality.
Malcom X, born Malcom Little was an activist for human rights and a popular figure during the American civil rights movement. He was born in 1925 to Earl and Louise Little and was one of their eight children. His father was a supporter for black civil rights and his public advocacy attracted attention from a white supremacist group, Black Legion. Earl frequently received death threats from Black Legion, in an attempt to flee from their terror the Little family relocated multiple times before Malcom’s fourth birthday. In 1929 their family home in Michigan was burned down, less than two years later Earl Little was found dead, sprawled out across trolley tracks in the town centre. The police deemed both of these cases as ‘accidents’, however, the Little family were convinced that the Black Legion were responsible for the attacks. The violent murder of his father, planted the seed for a violent approach to struggles later in life.
Shortly after, Louise suffered a mental breakdown and was committed to a mental hospital, her children were separated and sent to orphanages and foster homes. Following a move to Boston, Malcolm was arrested upon the grounds of burglary and issues with a ten year prison sentence. With a growth mindset and a determination to productively use his prison sentence, Malcom decided that he would use the time to further his education. His brother Reginald often visited him in prison and preached the religion of Islam. Malcolm grew interested and converted to Islam, he closely studied Elijah Mohammed who taught that white society worked to oppress African-Americans. Malcolm was released from prison in 1952 and immediately changed his sir-name from “Little” to “X”.
This change had a symbolic significance to Malcolm, it meant removing associations from slave trade and paying tribute to his lost tribal name. He was appointed a minister for the Nation of Islam (NOI) and given the responsibility of establishing mosques in American cities. His larger than life personality attracted attention, crediting Malcom with increasing the membership of the NOI. His advocacy for the Nation of Islam also made him a media target and earned Government attention. The FBI bugged the organisation, placed wire taps, cameras and other surveillance equipment to keep a close eye on the group. At the peak of the civil rights movement, Malcolm’s faith took a blow when he discovered that his mentor and religious idol Elijah Mohammed broke his vow of celibacy and had relations with six women.
Mohammed’s deception scared Malcolm deeply and he felt a great sense of guilt about the masses of people he had falsely led to join the NOI. In 1964, the guilt became too much for Malcolm and he left the NOI to found his own organisation. After a multitude of attempted assassinations, he became so fearful that he would travel nowhere without the protection of a body guard. In 1965, his home was firebombed, however his family escaped without injury. Less than one week later, he was ambushed on stage and assassinated while giving a speech in public. He was shot 15 times at close range. At 39 years old, Malcolm X was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.