“You can’t separate peace from freedom because nobody can be at peace unless he has his freedom,”

Malcolm X, 1965

El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, more commonly known as Malcolm X, was a political activist of black rights and a highly influential leader during the civil rights movement in America. Born in 1925 to Baptist parents, Malcolm X had a troubled and disturbing childhood surrounded by drugs, crime and prison. Malcolm was a man of stark transitions: he was strongly averted to the idea of God and religion, only to ‘convert’ to black political and religious movement ‘Nation of Islam’ in 1952 before being disillusioned by the movement in 1964 and breaking ties with it.

Malcolm’s ideas about race gained its share of controversy. He was not an advocate of the non-violent approach adopted by black leaders including Martin Luther King, Jr and instead, believed that black people must protect themselves ‘by any means necessary.’ He believed in black supremacy and wanted a separate nation for black people. However, after his pilgrimage to Mecca where he met and shared his beliefs with people from various cultures, Malcolm X returned with a fresh, inclusive perspective and began working for the betterment of people from different racial groups. He was assassinated in 1965 after being shot 15 times in Manhattan while preparing an address.

He remains one of the most influential African Americans in the world to date. Today, on his 95th birthday, we remember Malcolm X as one of history’s most memorable fighters for equality and justice.