Back in the day, May 19, 1925: Civil rights leader Malcolm X is born in Omaha

Back in the day, May 19, 1925: Civil rights leader Malcolm X is born in Omaha

Published May 20, 2022
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Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little 97 years ago today at University Hospital in Omaha.  

His parents, the Rev. Earl Little, a Baptist minister, and his wife, Louise, came to Omaha in 1921 to bring the Garveyite Christian message of self-sufficiency and independence for African Americans.

The Little family lived at 3448 Pinkney St. until threats from the Ku Klux Klan drove the Littles out of Nebraska toward the end of 1926 — about five months before Malcolm’s second birthday.

Malcolm spent much of his life in Boston, where he was convicted of burglary in 1946 and spent six years in prison. He educated himself in prison and joined the Nation of Islam.

Upon his release, he changed his name to Malcolm X, and became a Muslim minister, a spokesman for the Nation of Islam and a civil rights leader.

For nine years, Malcolm X used fiery oratory to win thousands of followers for himself and the Nation of Islam. He didn’t overtly encourage violence but urged his followers to protect themselves “by any means necessary” from physical attacks of racism. 

Malcolm’s popularity overshadowed that of his mentor, Elijah Muhamad, and Malcolm later split from the Nation of Islam, visited the holy shrine of Mecca, traveled the world and returned advocating a more inclusive approach to fighting racism.

The Malcolm X Birthsite, 3448 Pinkney St., marks the place where Malcolm X first lived with his family. A year later, the family moved to Milwaukee. The Omaha site is on the National Register of Historic Places and the Nebraska list of heritage sites. The Malcolm X Memorial Foundation created a plaza and an educational memorial where the family home stood. The State of Nebraska erected an official marker on the site. 

Near the end of his life, Malcolm X repudiated many of his earlier beliefs. He became an advocate for the oppressed people in the U.S. at a time — post World War II — when African Americans were losing faith in a country that had sent them off to help liberate Europe and then denied them a place at the table when they came home.

Many believe that Malcolm X’s change of philosophy led to his assassination in Harlem on Feb. 21, 1965, at the age of 39. 

In Omaha, the civil rights leader is remembered with an educational memorial where the family home stood. The Malcolm X Memorial Foundation created the memorial and a plaza on the site, and the State of Nebraska erected an official marker.

The site is on the National Register of Historic Places and the Nebraska list of heritage sites.

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At one point, Willow Springs was the third largest distillery in the U.S. with a peak annual production of 2.4 million gallons of liquor.