Malcolm X is without doubt one of the most influential African Americans in history. However, his influence and importance is confined to the past and not always told.
So before we list some of the best Malcolm X quotes, here is a brief summary of his life.
Malcolm Little was born on May 19, 1925, in Omaha, Nebraska. His father Earl Little, was a preacher and a staunch supporter of Jamaican Black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey.
At the age of six years old Malcolm’s father was killed, the victim, – he believed – of a white racist group. By the age of 13 Malcolm’s mother Louise was committed to an institution having suffered a nervous breakdown (more than 20 years later Malcolm and his siblings secured her release).
Malcolm and his siblings were separated and raised by white guardians in various foster homes and reform schools. How his early life affected him might explain these two Malcolm X quotes:
“Early in life I had learned that if you want something, you had better make some noise.”
“Usually, when people are sad, they don’t do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change.”
In 1946 while serving a prison sentence for robbery, Malcolm was introduced to and became a member of the Nation of Islam.
“To have once been a criminal is no disgrace. To remain a criminal is the disgrace.”
On his release from prison, Malcolm visited Elijah Muhammad in Chicago and in 1953 became assistant minister of the Nation’s Temple Number One in Detroit.
He became known as Malcolm X explaining that the “X” symbolized the true African family name that he could never know.
Malcolm X Quotes on Non Violence
If you turn the other cheek, you can be enslaved for 1,000 years.
If violence is wrong in America, violence is wrong abroad. If it is wrong to be violent defending black women and black children and black babies and black men, then it is wrong for America to draft us, and make us violent abroad in defense of her. And if it is right for America to draft us, and teach us how to be violent in defense of her, then it is right for you and me to do whatever is necessary to defend our own people right here in this country.
It’s hard for anyone intelligent to be nonviolent.
We are nonviolent with people who are nonviolent with us.
Nonviolence is fine as long as it works.
I don’t even call it violence when it’s in self defense; I call it intelligence.
Concerning nonviolence, it is criminal to teach a man not to defend himself when he is the constant victim of brutal attacks.
Malcolm X Quotes on Equality & Freedom
It is only after slavery and prison that the sweetest appreciation of freedom can come.
We want freedom now, but we’re not going to get it saying ‘We Shall Overcome.’ We’ve got to fight to overcome.
We declare our right on this earth to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.
Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a man, you take it.
When a person places the proper value on freedom, there is nothing under the sun that he will not do to acquire that freedom.
Whenever you hear a man saying he wants freedom, but in the next breath he is going to tell you what he won’t do to get it, or what he doesn’t believe in doing in order to get it, he doesn’t believe in freedom.
A man who believes in freedom will do anything under the sun to acquire . . . or preserve his freedom.
I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those that do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation.
If you’re not ready to die for it, put the word ‘freedom’ out of your vocabulary.
You don’t have to be a man to fight for freedom. All you have to do is to be an intelligent human being.
Dr. King wants the same thing I want. Freedom.
You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.
A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything.
Stumbling is not falling.
Being here in America doesn’t make you an American. Being born here in America doesn’t make you an American.
We’re not Americans, we’re Africans who happen to be in America. We were kidnapped and brought here against our will from Africa. We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock – that rock landed on us.
The day that the black man takes an uncompromising step and realizes that he’s within his rights, when his own freedom is being jeopardized, to use any means necessary to bring about his freedom or put a halt to that injustice, I don’t think he’ll be by himself.
Human rights are something you were born with. Human rights are your God given rights.
Quotes By Malcolm X on Education
My alma mater was books, a good library… I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity.
I for one believe that if you give people a thorough understanding of what confronts them and the basic causes that produce it, they’ll create their own program, and when the people create a program, you get action.
The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.
Without education, you’re not going anywhere in this world.
The textbooks tell our children nothing about the great contributions of Afro-Americans to the growth and development of this country.
You can’t legislate good will – that comes through education.
Don’t be in a hurry to condemn because he doesn’t do what you do or think as you think or as fast. There was a time when you didn’t know what you know today.
There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance next time.
Malcolm X Quotes on Racism
In the past, the greatest weapon the white man has had has been his ability to divide and conquer.
I am not a racist. I am against every form of racism and segregation, every form of discrimination. I believe in human beings, and that all human beings should be respected as such, regardless of their color.
Yes, I’m an extremist. The black race here in North America is in extremely bad condition. You show me a black man who isn’t an extremist and I’ll show you one who needs psychiatric attention!
I believe in the brotherhood of man, all men, but I don’t believe in brotherhood with anybody who doesn’t want brotherhood with me.
I believe in treating people right, but I’m not going to waste my time trying to treat somebody right who doesn’t know how to return the treatment.
What I want to know is how the white man, with the blood of black people dripping off his fingers, can have the audacity to be asking black people do they hate him? That takes a lot of nerve.
The common goal of 22 million Afro-Americans is respect as human beings, the God-given right to be a human being. Our common goal is to obtain the human rights that America has been denying us. We can never get civil rights in America until our human rights are first restored. We will never be recognized as citizens there until we are first recognized as humans.
A race of people is like an individual man; until it uses its own talent, takes pride in its own history, expresses its own culture, affirms its own selfhood, it can never fulfill itself.
I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it’s for or against.
If you have no critics, you’ll likely have no success.
Malcolm X Quotes on Religion
People don’t realize how a man’s whole life can be changed by one book.
I believe in a religion that believes in freedom. Any time I have to accept a religion that won’t let me fight a battle for my people, I say to hell with that religion.
There is nothing in our book, the Koran, that teaches us to suffer peacefully. Our religion teaches us to be intelligent. Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery. That’s a good religion.
One of the things that made the Black Muslim movement grow was its emphasis upon things African. This was the secret to the growth of the Black Muslim movement. African blood, African origin, African culture, African ties. And you’d be surprised – we discovered that deep within the subconscious of the black man in this country, he is still more African than he is American.
Malcolm X Quotes on Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad
I feel like a man who has been asleep somewhat and under someone else’s control. I feel that what I’m thinking and saying is now for myself. Before it was for and by the guidance of Elijah Muhammad. Now I think with my own mind, sir!
The thing that you have to understand about those of us in the Black Muslim movement was that all of us believed 100 percent in the divinity of Elijah Muhammad. We believed in him. We actually believed that God, in Detroit by the way, that God had taught him and all of that. I always believed that he believed in himself. And I was shocked when I found out that he himself didn’t believe it.
I shall never rest until I have undone the harm I did to so many well-meaning, innocent Negroes who through my own evangelistic zeal now believe in him even more fanatically and more blindly than I did.
Malcolm X Quotes on Death
Any number of my former brothers felt they would make heroes of themselves in the Nation of Islam if they killed me.
And in the racial climate of this country today, it is anybody’s guess which of the ‘extremes’ in approach to the black man’s problems might personally meet a fatal catastrophe first – ‘non-violent’ Dr. King, or so-called ‘violent’ me.
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.
It has always been my belief that I, too, will die by violence. I have done all that I can to be prepared.
Every morning when I wake up, now, I regard it as having another borrowed day.
Any time you know you’re within the law, within your legal rights, within your moral rights, in accord with justice, then die for what you believe in. But don’t die alone. Let your dying be reciprocal. This is what is meant by equality. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
He will make use of me dead, as he has made use of me alive, as a convenient symbol, of “hatred” – and that will help him escape facing the truth that all I have been doing is holding up a mirror to reflect, to show, the history of unspeakable crimes that his race has committed against my race.
Malcolm X And Martin Luther King
Malcolm X and Dr Martin Luther King were two of the USA’s leading Civil Rights and leaders of black freedom in the 1950s and 60s.
But because of their different approaches to the solution, incredibly the two only briefly met once. On March 1964, King and Malcolm were both at a Senate hearing regarding legislation aimed at ending segregation in public places and racial discrimination in employment. They briefly shook hands.
Malcolm X openly criticized Dr King’s nonviolent, multiracial approach. He called the 1963 March on Washington where Dr King delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech, “the farce on Washington.”
These two giants of their times captured the attention of the USA. Malcolm X was said to have been an inspiration for the Marvel X-Men character Magneto, while Martin Luther King was an inspiration for Professor X.
Malcolm X Quotes Directed At Dr Martin Luther King
The Negro revolution is controlled by foxy white liberals, by the Government itself. But the Black Revolution is controlled only by God.”
He got the peace prize, and we got the problem.. … If I’m following a general, and he’s leading me into a battle, and the enemy tends to give him rewards, or awards, I get suspicious of him. Especially if he gets a peace award before the war is over.
I’ll say nothing against him. At one time the whites in the United States called him a racialist, and extremist, and a Communist. Then the Black Muslims came along and the whites thanked the Lord for Martin Luther King.
“I want Dr. King to know that I didn’t come to Selma to make his job difficult. I really did come thinking I could make it easier. If the white people realize what the alternative is, perhaps they will be more willing to hear Dr. King.”
But despite their vastly different ideologies, Malcolm X believed that he and Dr King were working toward the same goal.
After his departure from the Nation of Islam, Malcolm expressed a desire to work with other civil rights leaders.
Sadly less than a year later he was assassinated by members of the Nation of Islam.
In a telegram to Malcolm’s wife Betty Shabazz, on hearing of his death Dr King said:
“…I always had a deep affection for Malcolm and felt that he had a great ability to put his finger on the existence and the root of the problem. He was an eloquent spokesman for his point of view and no one can honestly doubt that Malcolm had a great concern for the problems we face as a race.”
If you like these Malcolm X quotes, we strongly recommend that you read The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley, his speeches, Malcolm X’s Wikipedia page and research his life to get more in-depth understanding of the man.