Malcolm Little was born May 19, 1925, in Omaha, Nebraska.

In late 1948, Little wrote to Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam. Muhammad advised him to renounce his past, humbly bow in prayer to God, and promise never to engage in destructive behavior again.

After his parole in August 1952, Malcolm X visited Elijah Muhammad in Chicago.

In June 1953 he was named assistant minister of the Nation's Temple Number One in Detroit.

He was selected to lead Temple Number 7 in Harlem.

A Nation of Islam member, was beaten by two New York City police officers. On April 26, Johnson and two other passersby‍—‌also Nation of Islam members‍—‌saw the officers beating an African-American man with nightsticks. When they attempted to intervene, shouting, "You're not in Alabama ... this is New York!" one of the officers turned on Johnson, beating him so severely that he suffered brain contusions and subdural hemorrhaging. All four African-American men were arrested. Alerted by a witness, Malcolm X and a small group of Muslims went to the police station and demanded to see Johnson. Police initially denied that any Muslims were being held, but when the crowd grew to about five hundred, they allowed Malcolm X to speak with Johnson. Afterward, Malcolm X insisted on arranging for an ambulance to take Johnson to Harlem Hospital.

Malcolm X proposed to Betty Sanders during a telephone call from Detroit in January 1958, and they married two days later.

On December 1, 1963, when asked to comment on the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X said that it was a case of "chickens coming home to roost". He added that "chickens coming home to roost never did make me sad; they've always made me glad."

On March 8, 1964, Malcolm X publicly announced his break from the Nation of Islam. He was still a Muslim, he said, but felt that the Nation had "gone as far as it can" because of its rigid teachings. He said he was planning to organize a black nationalist organization to "heighten the political consciousness" of African Americans.

On March 26, 1964, he met Martin Luther King Jr. for the first and only time‍—‌and only long enough for photographs to be taken‍—‌in Washington, D.C., as both men attended the Senate's debate on the Civil Rights bill.

On February 19, 1965, Malcolm X told interviewer Gordon Parks that the Nation of Islam was actively trying to kill him.

On February 21, 1965, he was preparing to address the OAAU in Manhattan's Audubon Ballroom when someone in the 400-person audience yelled, "Nigger! Get your hand outta my pocket!" As Malcolm X and his bodyguards tried to quell the disturbance, a man rushed forward and shot him once in the chest with a sawed-off shotgun and two other men charged the stage firing semi-automatic handguns. Malcolm X was pronounced dead at 3:30 pm, shortly after arriving at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. The autopsy identified 21 gunshot wounds to the chest, left shoulder, arms and legs, including ten buckshot wounds from the initial shotgun blast.