Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925, in Omaha, Nebraska. He was the son of Earl Little, a Baptist preacher, and his wife, Louise. The family moved to Lansing, Michigan, shortly after Malcolm’s birth. Earl Little was an outspoken promoter of social and economic independence for blacks and a supporter of the ‘Back to Africa’ movement of black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey. In 1931 Earl Little was killed, probably murdered by white terrorists because of his political and social activism.
His father’s death had a disastrous effect on Malcolm and his family. His mother suffered a nervous breakdown, and the welfare department took the eight little children away from her. Malcolm was placed in a foster home and then in reform school. In 1941 he went to live with his half-sister in Boston, Massachusetts. There he soon entered the fringes of the underworld, and at the age of 17 he moved to the Harlem neighborhood of New York City. Known as Detroit Red, Malcolm turned to a life of crime, including drug dealing and armed robbery. When he was 20, Malcolm received a sentence of ten years in prison for burglary.