Malcolm X (1925-65), born Malcolm Little in Omaha, and also known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, lost both his parents at a young age. Leaving school early, he soon became part of Harlem's underworld, and in 1946 he was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment. It was in prison that Malcolm X converted to Islam. Paroled in 1952, he became an outspoken defender of Muslim doctrines, formed the Organization of Afro-American Unity in 1963, and had received considerable publicity by the time of his assassination in 1965.
Vilified by his critics as an anti-white demagogue, Malcolm X gave a voice to unheard African-Americans, bringing them pride, hope and fearlessness, and remains an inspirational and controversial figure.