Students in Sophia Sopuch's seventh-grade English classes at Grand County Middle School who wrote about Malcolm X for Black History Month include Zane Maher-Young (back row, left), Ariann Child, Nova Hill, Maggie Rutherford, Bailey Harrison, Ebony Contreras, Ryder Murdock and Eli Rock with Sopuch, Ianna Hansen (front row, left), Alexa Stripeika, Lydia Taylor, Brianna Whitney, Tenney Cook and Zoe Campbell. [Photo courtesy of Sophia Sopuch]

Could you imagine having to fight for basic human rights? You had to have segregated bathrooms among many other segregated places? Well, black people did, and here is one person who spoke up against it. His name is Malcolm X. The civil rights movement was a movement where black people wanted basic rights and to be equal with their white counterparts. They protested all the laws but it didn’t seem to make a difference until the right people spoke up. In this essay we are going to discuss Malcolm X’s life, his biggest accomplishments, and how Malcolm X differs from Martin Luther King Jr.

We are first going to talk about Malcolm X’s life and childhood. Malcolm X was born on May 19, 1925, in Omaha, Nebraska. Malcolm X was born into a household with eight other children. His name was Malcolm Little but he changed his last name to X because he did not want his name associated with slavery. His last name Little was given to his family by a former slave owner because that was his last name. The X symbolizes his unknown African identity. His dad, James Earl Little, was a Baptist minister and he got many threats from the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), thus forcing the large family to relocate several times before Malcolm was 4. James Earl Little was brutally killed by a train car rolling over his head when Malcolm was 6. Whether he was murdered or it was an accident is still unknown to this day. His mother, Louise Norton Little, was sent to a mental hospital a few years after her husband’s death. (Malcolm) was sent from foster home and he turned to being in a gang. He and his siblings were split up and sent to foster homes and orphanages. He was incredibly intelligent and when he was 14 he became class president. But his life took a major turn and he dropped out of school at 16. Malcolm started working on the streets and earned himself the nickname “Detroit Red.” He got caught in a gang and then he got busted when he was 19. He was 20 when he was sentenced to 10 years of prison time but was granted parole at 7 years. While Malcolm was in prison he studied the Nation of Islam and converted to the Islam religion. He was released in August of 1952.

Malcolm X led a fulfilling life and he accomplished many great things. He was named the minister of the Nation of Islam’s (NOI’s) Boston mosque Temple No. 11 in 1953. In 1954 he was also named minister at the Temple No. 12 in Philadelphia and Temple No. 7 in New York. Malcolm led countless marches and rallies throughout his lifetime. Malcolm X worked very closely with Martin Luther King Jr. Their first meeting was on March 26, 1964, and it was very brief. They had participated in the same rallies but they had completely different views on how the movement should be “fought.” Malcolm X created the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU). He was invited to speak to young students at superb universities like Harvard Law, Howard, and Columbia University. He was also invited to appear on television shows e.g. “Open Mind” and “The Mike Wallace News Program.” He also spoke on forums over the radio in Los Angeles, New York, and Washington. He also participated in countless debates. Malcolm X married a black NOI convert Betty Sander in 1958 and they had 6 girls together. On February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was at a rally in New York City and was shot to death by his former NOI members after he had converted (during) a Muslim pilgrimage. He was shot 15 times and was pronounced dead at the scene. He was 39 years old.

Malcolm X has the same intentions as Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK Jr.) but they went about it very differently with their divergent opinions. Where Malcolm X wanted black people to fight back when assaulted, MLK Jr. wanted the black people to peacefully protest and not fight back. They have similarities, which are, these respected men were both black in the 1960s in the civil rights movement. They both had the goal in their minds that black people were all created equal and they do not deserve the oppression that white people are putting on them…

Malcolm X was a Islam convert whereas MLK Jr. was a Christian. Malcolm X believed in racial superiority otherwise meaning that Malcolm wanted the black people to only support each other. Martin Luther King Jr. believed in integration. Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. knew each other and they just didn’t agree.

Malcolm X was a very outspoken civil rights leader and had very different views on how black people should be treated. During the civil rights movement Malcolm X and the black people of America fought the oppression. Martin Luther King Jr. had peaceful views and had the belief of integration. Malcolm X wanted black people to fight back when assaulted by a white person. Malcolm X had a belief that white people were the devil. He wanted all black people to unite against the force of white people. Although his life had taken sharp turns, he also accomplished many things in his short life … Malcolm X was a very accomplished man; even though he had some rough spots in his life, he was a great leader and he will forever be respected and honored as one of the outspoken civil rights leaders in his era.

February is Black History Month, and to mark the occasion, students in Sophia Sopuch’s seventh-grade English classes at Grand County Middle School wrote essays about Malcolm X. To highlight their work, the Moab Sun News is publishing an essay by student Zoe Campbell. For the majority of Sopuch’s 116 students, it was their first introduction to the historic figure, and Sopuch said that teaching the students about Malcolm X has been a wonderful experience. Sopuch said that Zoe exceeded her expectations by including information that went beyond what the students learned in class. Most of all, Sopuch said, she enjoyed Zoe’s paragraph about Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “She is able to compare the two men in an objective way without taking one side over the other, which is sometimes difficult to do whether a person be in seventh grade or not,” she said.