malcolm's life could easily have been unremarkable. in his youth, he was drawn into the only life available to so many young black men, crime. but his was a questing intellect, and while in prison he converted to islam, eventually becoming a leader who was perceived by the white establishment as being radical and dangerous. in truth, as described in alexander haley's The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and also in spike lee's film Malcolm X, malcolm went through a dramatic evolution in his thinking. once thought to be the antithesis of pacifist civil rights leader dr. martin luther king, jr., the two men grew to be two sides of the same coin -- impassioned advocates for recognition of the rights and inherent human dignity of all people, including those of color.
it is tragic that both men were assassinated in their prime, before even reaching their full potential as thinkers and leaders. dr. king would have turned 80 this year, and malcolm x would have turned 84.