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1965: Malcolm X on Front Page Challenge

The Story

He was revered. He was despised. Some saw him as a guardian of civil rights, a force of empowerment and self-respect for blacks in America. Others branded him a provocateur, a racial supremacist and a menace. His words, incisive and unforgiving had the capacity to unite - and divide. A split from the Nation of Islam eventually tempered his tone as seen by this appearance on CBC's Front Page Challenge. But on Feb. 21, 1965, some say it brought the man called Malcolm X to his untimely demise.

Medium: Television
Program: Front Page Challenge
Broadcast Date: Jan. 5, 1965
Guest: Malcolm X
Host: Fred Davis
Panellists: Pierre Berton, Betty Kennedy, Charles Templeton, Gordon Sinclair, Jr.
Duration: 11:55
Some video on this clip has been repackaged for copyright reasons.
Writer: Alex Barris

Did You know?

• Malcolm Little, born on May 19, 1925, in Omaha, Neb., eventually dropped his surname and replaced it with X, symbolizing the rejection of his "slave name." He said he chose "X" because, "To take one's 'X' is to take on a certain mystery, a certain possibility of power in the eyes of one's peers and one's enemies... The 'X' announced what you had been and what you had become: ex-smoker, ex-drinker, ex-Christian, ex-slave."

• In 1958, Malcolm X married Betty Shabazz (née Sanders). They had six daughters; the last two were twins born after Malcolm's death in 1965.

• After spending his adolescence hustling, in 1946 he was arrested and sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment on various charges including carrying firearms and breaking and entering.

• In prison, Malcolm X became intrigued with the teachings of the Nation of Islam (NOI) and developed a close relationship with its leader Elijah Muhammad. Upon his release from prison in 1952, he quickly became Muhammad's right-hand man. The increase in membership of the NOI from 500 in 1952 to 30,000 in 1963 was largely attributed to Malcolm X.

• The nation of Islam is a religious and socio-political U.S-based organization with a stated goal of promoting the social, economic, political and spiritual condition of blacks in America and the world. Elijah Muhammad led the organization from 1934 to 1975 and often stated that black people were the original humans and that a separate state was necessary for blacks to attain empowerment. Minister Louis Farrakhan is currently (in 2006) the leader of a reconstituted Nation of Islam.

• The close relationship with the NOI didn't last. When U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, Malcolm commented that Kennedy "never foresaw that the chickens would come home to roost so soon." The remark led to a restriction over his activities in the NOI. After growing increasingly disenchanted, Malcolm X publicly broke ties with the Nation of Islam on March 8, 1964, and eventually converted to orthodox Islam.

• After that point, some say he became a changed man, his speeches sounding less incendiary and more conciliatory. However, the tensions between him and the NOI were high and it was alleged that members were planning to kill him. On Feb. 14, 1965, Malcolm X's home in New York City was firebombed but no one was hurt.

• "It is a time for martyrs now, and if I am to be one, it will be for the cause of brotherhood. That's the only thing that can save this country." These prophetic words were spoken just two days before his assassination.

• Though three men were charged and convicted with his assassination, controversy still exists over who really shot Malcolm X.

• Malcolm often found himself at odds with the views and actions of another civil rights activist, Martin Luther King Jr. He criticized King's non-violent strategy and promotion of integration with whites in America. The two only met once but Malcolm offered King his assistance on a number of occasions. King declined, stating years later in his autobiography, "I have often wished that he would talk less of violence, because violence is not going to solve our problem."

• In 1963, Malcolm started writing his autobiography with Alex Haley, who would later gain prominence as the author of Roots. In 1992, a movie based on Malcolm's autobiography was released, directed by Spike Lee, with Denzel Washington playing the role of Malcolm X.


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