He explained the name he chose by saying,
"To take one's 'X' is to take on a certain mystery, a certain possibility of power in the eyes of one's peers and one's enemies ... The 'X'; announced what you had been and what you had become: Ex-smoker, Ex-drinker, Ex-Christian, Ex-slave."
The 'X' also stood for the unknown original surname of the slaves from whom Malcolm X descended, in preference to continuing to use a name which would have been given by the slave owner. This rationale made many members of the Nation of Islam choose their own surnames.
Birth and early years.
Malcolm was born in Omaha, Nebraska to Earl Little and Louise Little (nÃÂ©e Norton). His father, an outspoken Baptist lay preacher and supporter of Marcus Garvey, was believed to have been killed by the Black Legion, a white supremacist group in Lansing, Michigan in 1931. Malcolm and his siblings had been split up and sent to different foster homes when Louise Little was declared legally insane.
In 1939, she was formally committed to the State Mental Hospital at Kalamazoo, Michigan, and remained there until Malcolm and his brothers and sisters got her released twenty-six years later.
Malcolm graduated from junior high school at the top of his class, but dropped out when his favorite teacher crushed his dream to be a lawyer by saying that it was "no realistic goal for a nigger". After enduring a series of foster homes, Malcolm was first sent to a detention center and then later moved to Boston to live with his older half-sister, Ella Little Collins.
He found work as a shoe shiner at a Lindy Hop nightclub; in his autobiography, he says that he once shined the shoes of Duke Ellington and other notable black musicians. After some time,