Malcolm X was born in Omaha, Nebraska. By the time he was 13, his father had died and his mother had been committed to a mental hospital. His childhood, including his father's lessons concerning black pride and self-reliance and his own experiences concerning race, played a significant role in Malcolm X's adult life. After living in a series of foster homes, Malcolm X became involved in the criminal underworld in Boston and New York. In 1945, Malcolm X was sentenced to eight to ten years in prison.
While in prison, Malcolm X became a member of the Nation of Islam. After his parole in 1952, he became one of the Nation's leaders and chief spokesmen. For nearly a dozen years, he was the public face of the Nation of Islam. Tension between Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad, head of the Nation of Islam, led to Malcolm X's departure from the organization in March 1964.
After leaving the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X became a Sunni Muslim and made a pilgrimage to Mecca. He traveled extensively throughout Africa and the Middle East. He founded Muslim Mosque, Inc., a religious organization, and the secular, black nationalist Organization of Afro-American Unity. Less than a year after he left the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X was assassinated while giving a speech in New York.
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