5 Ways Malcolm X's Legacy Lives on Today

A look back at legacy of Malcolm X on the 90th anniversary of his birth.


The world remembers prominent civil rights leader Malcolm X, born on May 19, 1925. Though he is often remembered as a controversial counterpart to Martin Luther King, Jr. in the fight for equality, Malcolm X's beliefs about race continue to speak to a new generation. 

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He lived during a transformative time in America.

Baltimore Riots
Win McNamee/Getty Images News

The 1950s and ‘60s were a time of great change (and great danger) for African-Americans, with the nation at a crossroads in its discussions on race. As we all know, it’s still a turbulent time today. Headlines about and dominate the news, and remind us there is a long way to go before we can finally in the country.

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He believed black lives matter.

Baltimore Protests
Andrew Burton/Getty Images News

It’s tough to say exactly how Malcolm X would have responded to the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, among other major news stories about race relations. But he was a powerful advocate of black pride and empowerment during his lifetime and spoke to the values of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, long before it became a hashtag and battle cry.

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He protested injustice... by any means necessary.

Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Marion S. Trikosko/Library of Congress

Before his life was cut short when he was assassinated in 1965 at the age of 39, Malcolm X was on a mission to create a just society. His belief in the rationalization of violence in self-defense was polarizing, and in direct contrast with the non-violent beliefs of Dr. King. He wasn't afraid of conflict if it helped to further his mission and stood up for what he believed in — much like the protesters we've seen in Ferguson, MO and Baltimore, MD.

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He embraced change with an open mind.

Malcolm X
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Malcolm X demanded changes in society, but he also changed his own philosophies quite a bit, too. Once at odds with the Civil Rights Movement, his early career advocated for violent measures, as well as segregation with the establishment of a separate black community. However, after , Malcolm X later adjusted his opinions, which can teach us a potential lesson in being open-minded and nonjudgmental.

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He influenced others through his words.

Malcolm X at Rally
Bob Parent/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Malcolm X was well-known for his dynamic speeches and charisma for the causes he championed. While , Malcolm X shared his story with writer Alex Haley, who helped publish The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley a few months after his assassination. That book is still considered and remains influential to this day.

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Faherty, Emily. "5 Ways Malcolm X's Legacy Lives on Today." ThoughtCo, May. 15, 2017, thoughtco.com/ways-malcolm-xs-legacy-lives-on-3023305. Faherty, Emily. (2017, May 15). 5 Ways Malcolm X's Legacy Lives on Today. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/ways-malcolm-xs-legacy-lives-on-3023305 Faherty, Emily. "5 Ways Malcolm X's Legacy Lives on Today." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/ways-malcolm-xs-legacy-lives-on-3023305 (accessed December 12, 2017).