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National Holiday for Malcolm X A Slow Process

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By Veronica Mackey

The road to recognition is painfully long and slow, especially for slain civil rights leaders.  It took 18 years for Congress to say yes to a national observance for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Meanwhile, those pushing for Malcolm X Day are still waiting.  He was assassinated 3 years before King, but today is only recognized by a few cities within a handful of states.

On March 28, 2024, the Nebraska Legislature became the latest to pass a bill recognizing Malcolm X every year on his birthday, May 19.  It was a full circle moment, commemorating the civil rights icon who was born there in Omaha in 1925.  For years, the conservative Midwest state rejected the bill because he was considered too controversial.

Legislation fell short of declaring the day as a state holiday, however, despite efforts by Omaha Senator Terrell McKinney — one of two Black members of the Nebraska Legislature—who introduced the bill.  Lawmakers said the projected cost of $500,000 to declare it a state holiday—which includes holiday pay for state workers taking the day off—made the effort unfeasible.

“Malcolm X is one of the most fundamentally misunderstood people in American history,” McKinney said last year about the bill. “And perhaps the stigma around him would be extinguished if his achievements and contributions were recognized.”

The former Nation of Islam minister, who preached self-sufficiency for black people and freedom from oppression “by any means necessary” was gunned down in 1965 in New York during a speaking engagement.  A year before his death, he split with the Nation after a disagreement with NOI leader Elijah Muhammad, and softened his rhetoric toward white people.

During his lifetime, he faced threats from the Ku Klux Klan, and spent time in prison for burglary, before converting to Islam and changing his name from Malcolm Little to Malcolm X.  Like Dr. King, he died at age 39.

In a video from Newsweek Europe, Ilyasah Shabazz, Malcolm X’s third daughter, commented on how she wants her father to be remembered: 

“Even with the inauguration of President Obama, I feel as though my father was being written out of history. There should be a national holiday for Malcolm X,” she said. “So, I hope that all of the people who say that Malcolm made a significant impact on their lives will join us to push for my father. Not because he’s my father, but because of the work he’s done.”

According to Wikipedia, several cities have adopted local observances in honor of the slain civil rights leader, through various events, proclamations, and house bills, within the following states:

California, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. 

Malcolm X was selected last year as the newest inductee into the Nebraska Hall of Fame, making him the state’s first Black honoree.

Currently, the only California cities that observe the holiday with city offices and school closures are Berkeley and Oakland.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Leaving behind six daughters and a widow, Malcom X’s beloved third daughter, Ilyasah Shabazz, chose to begin writing about her life and her memories of her famous father.

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In contrast, the nation has observed the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. since 1986. Though initially the King Holiday was shot down by President Ronald Reagan citing it would be too costly, Coretta Scott King and other compatriots of the civil rights leader continued to put pressure on Congress to enact the holiday as the third Monday of January. King and Malcolm X did not share the same views about how to change the social and political plight of America, but historians say they respected each other as equals, not rivals.

Twinkl.com
What Is Malcolm X Day?

Malcolm X Day is a day of recognition and reflection dedicated to celebrating the life and legacy of Malcolm X, a prominent African American civil rights leader known for his influential role in advocating for the rights of Black Americans during the 1950s and 1960s. Born Malcolm Little, he later adopted the name El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz after converting to Islam. Malcolm X is remembered for his powerful speeches and writings, which highlighted the struggles against racial injustice and called for empowerment and self-determination among African Americans. The day serves as an opportunity to honor his contributions to social justice and to educate the public about his impact on the civil rights movement.

When Is Malcolm X Day 2024?

Some people observe Malcolm X Day on May 19th, his birthday, but the day is officially observed on the third Friday of May. Therefore, Malcolm X Day 2024 will fall on Friday, May 17. The day is recognized officially in some U.S. cities and unofficially in various communities across the country. While it is not a federal holiday, various events such as educational programs, public discussions, and community gatherings are often organized to mark the occasion.

How Is Malcolm X Day Celebrated?

  • Educational Seminars and Workshops: Activities focus on Malcolm X’s teachings, discussing his relevance in today’s societal context.
  • Public Speeches: Leaders and scholars give talks highlighting his life, work, and enduring legacy.
  • Film Screenings and Book Readings: Events feature documentaries and biographies that explore significant aspects of Malcolm X’s life and ideologies.
  • Community Gatherings: These include discussions and rallies to raise awareness about ongoing civil rights issues, inspired by Malcolm X’s mission.
  • School and College Programs: Educators dedicate lessons to discussing Malcolm X’s impact on American history and civil rights.

Why Is Malcolm X Day Important?

Malcolm X Day is important because it provides a moment to reflect on the significant impact Malcolm X had on the civil rights movement in America. His advocacy for Black empowerment, his critique of systemic racism, and his call for global human rights resonate with many to this day. The day not only honors his memory but also serves as a reminder of the ongoing need to fight for justice and equality. Celebrating Malcolm X Day helps keep his courageous spirit alive in the collective memory of the nation and continues to inspire current and future generations in the fight against oppression.

How Can I Celebrate Malcolm X Day 2024 With My Kids?

Celebrating Malcolm X Day with children can be both educational and inspiring, providing an excellent opportunity for parents and teachers to introduce important historical concepts and discuss values like equality, justice, and resilience. Here are some child-friendly ways to observe Malcolm X Day:

  • Art Projects: Encourage kids to express what they learn through art. This could be drawing portraits of Malcolm X, creating posters with his powerful quotes, or even a collage that represents the themes of justice and equality.
  • Discussion and Reflection: Have an open discussion about the importance of standing up for what is right and how Malcolm X’s legacy can inspire us today. This can be done at the dinner table, in the classroom, or as a bedtime story session.
  • Write Letters or Poems: Older children can write letters or poems expressing their thoughts on equality and justice, or what they have learned about Malcolm X’s contributions. This helps develop their writing skills and their ability to express complex ideas.
  • Read Children’s Books: Start with age-appropriate books that explain who Malcolm X was and his role in the civil rights movement. Books like “Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X” by Ilyasah Shabazz provide a gentle introduction to his early life and influences.
  • Community Service: Participate in a community service project or a charity event that reflects the spirit of activism and service to the community. It’s a practical way to show children the importance of contributing to society.

Twinkl Resources for Malcolm X Day 2024

  • Our Civil Rights Movement Fact Cards for 3rd-5th Grade would be an excellent supplement to your classes about the events that occurred during the Civil Rights Movement, including civil rights, activists, and protests. These cards contain information about protests like the March on Washington, civil rights activists like Ruby Bridges and Martin Luther King, and details about the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • Our Fourth Grade Malcolm X Reading Comprehension Activity is a great tool to introduce students to the civil rights leader, Malcolm X. The resource has been designed to cater to fourth-grade level students. It comes with two multiple-choice questions and one written response question, which will help students develop a better understanding of the journey of Malcolm X from his early life to his work as a leader in the civil rights movement.
  • The Malcolm X Quote Reflection Activity for 6th-8th Grade is a valuable exercise that aims to inspire a love of reading and reflection in children. By providing a variety of quote cards, children can choose what resonates with them and express their thoughts and feelings in writing. You can consider developing an appropriate prompt for them to write about, or simply encourage them to freely express their ideas. This activity offers an excellent opportunity to enhance children’s writing abilities. The quote cards can be easily printed for classroom use or shared digitally to foster independent learning.

Twinkl offers a wide range of educational materials that can help you plan and organize a meaningful Malcolm X Day 2024 celebration with your children. If you’re looking for resources that can help your kids learn about the importance of this day, sign up for a Twinkl account today to access a variety of exclusive content and additional resources.

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Malcolm X Quote Reflection Activity for 6th-8th Grade

Malcolm X Quote Reflection Activity for 6th-8th Grade

Fourth Grade Malcolm X Reading Comprehension Activity

Fourth Grade Malcolm X Reading Comprehension Activity

Malcolm X Extraordinary Lives Reading Comprehension

Malcolm X Extraordinary Lives Reading Comprehension

Malcolm X Differentiated Reading Comprehension Activity

Malcolm X Differentiated Reading Comprehension Activity

Fifth Grade Malcolm X Reading Passage Comprehension Activity

Fifth Grade Malcolm X Reading Passage Comprehension Activity

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