In 1964, shortly after his break with Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X made a pilgrimage to Mecca, the holy Muslim city in Saudi Arabia that was the birthplace of the founder of Islam. He also visited several other African and Arab nations. While on this trip, he wrote a highly publicized letter expressing his own faith as a follower of traditional Islam and renouncing the Black Muslim teaching that all white men are evil. He became an orthodox Sunni Muslim (Sunni Islam). He also adopted a religious name, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, meaning the Malcolm (or Malik) who is from the tribe or family of Shabazz and has made the Hajj, or pilgrimage, to Mecca. However, most people in the United States continued to call him Malcolm X, a name he did not reject.
When Malcolm X returned to America, he held the first rally for a black nationalist group he had founded, the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU). This group, which had no direct religious ties, advocated racial solidarity and strove to unify all black organizations fighting white racism. At the same time, Malcolm X renounced his previous racism against whites, declaring that in Mecca he had realized that people of all colors were children of Allah. In contrast to his earlier views, he encouraged blacks to vote, to participate in the political system, and to work with each other and with sympathetic whites and Hispanics for an end to racial discrimination. As he told a group of African leaders, the problem of race was “not a Negro problem, nor an American problem. This is a world problem, a problem of humanity.”
Malcolm X also began collaborating with writer Alex Haley on an account of his life. In the manuscript, later published as The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965), he predicted that he might not live to see the book published. That prophecy became a reality on February 21, 1965. Malcolm X was assassinated while addressing an OAAU rally in New York City. At least two of the three men later convicted of the crime were connected with the Nation of Islam. Many scholars and supporters of Malcolm X have speculated that leaders or individuals within the Nation of Islam—including Elijah Muhammad—considered him a danger to their own movement and could not forgive him for rejecting their authority and organizing a rival movement. These observers believe that the Nation of Islam leadership may have ordered the assassination of Malcolm X.