Forty-five years ago today the world lost a "shining black prince" when black empowerment activist Malcolm X was assassinated in New York City. The anniversary of that tragedy went largely unnoted by the mainstream media, but ordinary people gave it its due in an outpouring of Tweets.
The Root's favorite Twitterati also weighed in. Referring to the debate over Malcolm X's stance on black nationalism later in life, Columbia University professor Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) Tweeted, "Malcolm became a more committed Black Nationalist and Pan Africanist in his final days, not a multicultural action figure."
Born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska on May 19, 1925, Malcolm X evolved from an early life of criminality to a leadership role in the Nation of Islam in the 1960s. A leader of the black nationalist movement, Malcolm X provided a counterweight to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s approach of gaining civil rights though non-violent protest, by urging blacks to achieve their rights "by any means necessary."
Over time Malcolm X's relationship with the NOI's leader, Elijah Muhammad, grew strained. Things came to a head at the end of 1963 when Malcolm X referred to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy as "a case of the chickens coming home to roost," leading to his silencing in the NOI for 90 days.
In 1964 Malcolm X left the NOI and converted to the more mainstream Sunni sect of Islam. He made a life changing pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, returning with the name El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz and a more racially inclusive perspective on human rights activism. He was struck down by an assassin's bullet during a speaking engagement at Manhattan's Audubon Ballroom on February 21, 1965.
Six days later, Malcolm X was laid to rest. Actor and activist Ossie Davis gave the eulogy. During the 1992 Spike Lee biopic Malcolm X, Davis reprised the speech in a voiceover.