Discuss the influences on Malcolm X and how they helped form his ideology in the years 1949 to 1965?

Authors Avatar

A Level

Plan of Procedure

I have always had a keen interest on the life of Malcolm X and the many differing views presented by historians, media and his contemporaries. I thought it ideal therefore to look into his life story. Rather than delving into whether he or Martin Luther King was the more effective, I decided to look at how Malcolm X became the person he was and hence the question.

The outline form details all that I shall be researching including:

  • Affiliations
  • Contemporaries
  • Travels
  • Religion
  • International Politics

Having received my outline form, the moderator suggested I be able to form a debate as it could lead to narrative. Keeping this in mind I have decided to read half a dozen books and get as many views as possible which shall allow a thorough analysis of the question. (Please see bibliography)

After reading Critical Lives and The Judas Factor I realised my question needed amending as it didn’t allow a big enough scope for a true analysis of the “influences on Malcolm X”. This I decided to amend from the period 1957-1965 to 1949-1965. Since changing this title I have realised I have delved into periods before this, but I decided this was only to provide an all round picture to the reader so it didn’t warrant another change to the question.

My complete essay numbers 3697 (not including plan and bibliography), I understand I have exceeded the word limit slightly but after a thorough revision of the essay this couldn’t be helped without affecting the analysis of the question. All relevant views have been included as well as sources with their evaluation and analysis.

The essay has been a challenge to compose but worthwhile as it has opened my views on Malcolm X and how narrow, general views on him are, out of misunderstanding. I feel I have answered the question with some difficulty. The question can be broken into two parts firstly, “the influences on Malcolm X” and secondly, “how they helped form his ideology”. The Latter was the more difficult part as there wasn’t a conclusive answer. All sources indicated varying views and sometimes led to speculation since Malcolm X’s life ended prematurely without having come to a definite ideology. Maybe that was Malcolm X’s vision or mission to help deliver the African Americans using all means at his disposal.

Overall the question has been answered as best possible with the maximum use of sources and a huge variety of sources from books to videos. It has enabled me to read other topics such as ideologies which will help me with my European module.

Discuss the influences on Malcolm X and how they helped form his ideology in the years 1949 to 1965? Saqub Siddique


The term ideology is used in a historical and political context. It is a view of the present and vision of the future. It is about how action can determine achieving a goal. It is directed towards the masses and it is motivational so the grass roots can understand the aim and try and achieve the goal. This definition should be understood as a structure for the term ideology. Malcolm X didn’t follow a set ideology such as socialism or democracy, rather his ideology evolved overtime more so from 1964 to 1965 upon his split from the Nation of Islam (NOI). Whether there is an ideology he could be attributed to we shall see.

His methods to achieve this goal differed at different points of his life and were also in stark contrast to the more “convivial” leaders.


By 1952 Malcolm had served six years in jail for robbery. In prison he converted to the Nation of Islam, heralded a heretic sect in the eyes of Orthodox Islam. After leaving prison he spent his time and energy on this new found faith to help propagate the teachings of the co-founder of this movement, Elijah Muhammad. By 1958 Malcolm X became minister of Muslim Mosque number 7 in New York. He had by now risen to prominence amongst the African-American community. It was the event in 1957 that really brought light upon the ‘Black Muslims’ (as the followers of Elijah Muhammad’s version of Islam were called) as a people to be appraised. The Amsterdam News highlighted the whole story and people in the black streets were discussing for the first time ‘those Muslims’. The incident, one not uncommon was about police brutality. With the help of the Nation of Islam the New York Police Department was sued for $70,000, the largest paid out up to that date. It is therefore clear from Malcolm X’s life that most of his leadership qualities were borne out from his association with the Nation of Islam. The influences on the views of Malcolm X from the period 1949 up until 1963 were purely in line with the Nation of Islam. Pre 1946 Malcolm Little had been involved in numerous crimes a reflection of the society that surrounded him. His education was cut short in 1941. Malcolm spiralled into a life of crime. By 1946 Malcolm had been involved in most crimes as running numbers, drug peddling, burglary and a host of other rackets. By 1946 Malcolm was imprisoned for burglary. Three years later he was to accept the ‘heretical’ Nation of Islam. Unlike other inmates Malcolm, whilst in prison spent most of his time reading sometimes up to sixteen hours a day. He read diverse topics from science to history. He read the works of Dubois, Marx, and Nietzsche. He read about Lenin, Hitler and Ghandi amongst others. In later years when asked about his alma mater, he replied “books”. It was in prison he was exposed to diverse ideologies spanning the spectrum.  The awareness he had of history and current affairs was displayed in his debates years later with civil rights leaders.

Join now!

Malcolm, whilst in prison was aware of Paul Robeson. Robeson a political activist had borrowed the idea of lodging a petition that accused the United States of violating the human rights of African Americans from Marcus Garvey. Malcolm would in the years 1964-65 have the same idea of bringing the issue of civil rights to the level of human rights and lodging the case to the United Nations. Robeson and Garvey’s ideas were an influence on Malcolm which can be seen in his letters of that time.


Malcolm’s experiences of white people in his childhood would later come to ...

This is a preview of the whole essay