This Day in Black History: May 19, 1925

Religious leader and human rights activist Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska.

Posted: 05/19/2014 12:00 AM EDT

Celebrated religious leader and human rights activist Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska.

Known for rallying crowds with his fiery speeches, he would go on to become one of the most prominent figures of the Black Power Movement of the 1960s. While serving a prison sentence for robbery in the 1940s, he converted to Islam and abandoned his surname, taking the letter “X” as a tribute to his unknown African ancestors.

After being paroled in 1952, Malcolm X became a vocal spokesman for the Nation of Islam (NOI), a religious sect that championed Black nationalism and self-determination. He split from the NOI in 1964 and founded the more inclusive Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) shortly after.

Tragically, Malcolm X was murdered Feb. 21, 1965, as he prepared to address the OAAU at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem. He was 40.

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(Photo: Terry Disney/Getty Images)

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