Who Was Malcolm X?

Who Was Malcolm X?

Few things are less predictable than the vagaries of reputation. The role of Malcolm X in the racial dramas of the sixties was comparatively minor and his influence while alive, negligible. To have suggested in 1964 that within ten years Lenox Avenue, where his street-corner audiences had regularly clashed with the police, would be renamed Malcolm X Boulevard, his autobiography incorporated into high school curricula, and Malcolm himself enshrined in the pantheon of twentieth-century African-American heroes would have seemed absurd. Yet this hardly begins to do justice to the extent of his posthumous fame. The canonization of Malcolm X was abetted by virtually every segment of black political opinion, from campus radicals to more cautious officeholders. It represents a curious acknowledgment of the force, if not the persuasiveness, of his legacy, and says as much about the failure of black nationalism to achieve tangible results in the seventies and eighties as it does about Malcolm himself.

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