Malcolm X: A Fearless Leader

Civil rights leader Malcolm X holds an 8mm movie camera in London July 1964, shortly after breaking his affiliation with the Nation of Islam. i i

Civil rights leader Malcolm X holds an 8mm movie camera in London July 1964, shortly after breaking his affiliation with the Nation of Islam. Express Newspapers/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Express Newspapers/Getty Images
Civil rights leader Malcolm X holds an 8mm movie camera in London July 1964, shortly after breaking his affiliation with the Nation of Islam.

Civil rights leader Malcolm X holds an 8mm movie camera in London July 1964, shortly after breaking his affiliation with the Nation of Islam.

Express Newspapers/Getty Images

February is Black History Month and Tell Me More observes the month with a series of short vignettes. In this installment, NPR's Brakkton Booker shares his black history hero.

I'm Brakkton Booker, an assistant editor here at Tell Me More, and my black history icon is Malcolm X.

In his 39 years of life, he was a hoodlum, a racist, an inmate and a Muslim who was militant in the fight for civil rights.

But that's not why I admire him.

More than the "any means necessary" mantra that has become his enduring legacy, I love Malcolm X's willingness to eschew racism and evolve into a human rights activist.

Here he is in 1964 talking to reporters about his pilgrimage to Mecca:

I had close contact with Muslims whose skin would in America be classified as white. And with Muslims who would themselves be classified as White in America. But these particular Muslims didn't call themselves white. They looked upon themselves as human beings, as part of the human family.

Those words couldn't be more relevant today as the U.S. Homeland Security Committee this month considers "the radicalization" of the Muslim community.

Malcolm X was assassinated 46 years ago today.

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