The man best known as Malcolm X lived three distinct and interrelated lives under the respective names Malcolm Little, Malcolm X, and El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. Any honest attempt to understand the total man must begin with some understanding of the significant components that went into his making.
The racist society that produced and killed Malcolm X is responsible for what he was and for destroying what he could have been. He had the greatest leadership potential of any person to emerge directly from the black proletariat of the century. He was the creation of the interplay of powerful and conflicting forces in mid-century America. No other country or combination of forces could have shaped him the way he was and ultimately destroyed him with such a unique ruthlessness.
Malcolm X knew, before he could explain it to himself and others, that he was living in a society that was engaged in the systematic destruction of his people's self respect. His first memories are of conflict. In this respect his early life was no different than that of most black Americans, where conflict comes early and stays late. In his own words:
When my mother was pregnant with me, she told me later, a party of hooded Ku Klux Klan raiders galloped up to our home in Omaha, Nebraska, one night. Surrounding the house, brandishing their shotguns and rifles, they shouted for my father to come out. My mother went to the front door and opened it. Standing where they could see her pregnant condition, she told them she was alone with her three small children and that my father was away, preaching, in Milwaukee. The Klansmen shouted threats and warnings at her that we had better get out of town because "The good Christian white people" were not going to stand for my father's "spreading trouble" among the "good" Negroes of Omaha with the "back to Africa" preachings of Marcus Gravey. (Malcolm X)