From an Outcast to the Prophet: The Evolution of Malcolm X’s Religious and Political Philosophy

Tyumen State University Herald. Humanities Research. Humanitates


2021, Vol. 7. № 2 (26)

From an Outcast to the Prophet: The Evolution of Malcolm X’s Religious and Political Philosophy

For citation: Shumakov A. A. 2021. “From an Outcast to the Prophet: The Evolution of Malcolm X’s Religious and Political Philosophy”. Tyumen State University Herald. Humanities Research. Humanitates, vol. 7, no. 2 (26), pp. 193-209. DOI: 10.21684/2411-197X-2021-7-2-193-209

About the author:

Andrey A. Shumakov, Cand. Sci. (Hist.), Associate Professor, Department of Humanities, Tula Branch of the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics;


The figure of the radical African-American preacher Malcolm X has always occupied and continues to occupy a special place in the history of the protest movement of the 1960s. This is due to a number of reasons, the main of which was the pronounced ambivalence and inconsistency of the political philosophy of this public figure, who was noted for both ultra-radical religious sermons and rather progressive revolutionary and national liberation ideas at the final stage of his life. The latter, in fact, made him one of the main characters of the “rebellious decade”. While the far-right radicalism of the Harlem preacher faded into the background and began to be perceived as some “mistakes and misconceptions” that were later rethought and overcome.

The question of assessing the legacy and personality of Malcolm X has always caused a lot of controversy. On the one hand, his contribution to the development of the movement of the struggle of the Black population for their rights and the formation of the African-American mentality is undeniable; on the other — it can be said that in the academic environment for all this time they practically were not subjected to critical reflection. If, during his lifetime, the ideas of the Harlem preacher were perceived by the vast majority of Americans as frankly marginal, then after his tragic death in 1965, Malcolm X became one of the most popular and iconic figures in recent US history. Any criticism of him began to be perceived extremely painfully.

In this article, the author tried to trace the process of formation and evolution of the ideological and political views of Malcolm X, which was the main goal of the study. The main difference from other works on this topic was that in this article, this phenomenon is considered in dynamics, the causes of transformations and the influence of related factors are noted. At the same time, the author tried to identify certain “variables and constants” of the religious and political philosophy of Malcolm X, not only fixing them, but assessing the degree and depth of changes. That led to rather unexpected conclusions on a number of issues, the main of which was the explanation of the reasons for the incredible popularity of Malcolm X in modern American society.

The main method of research is materialistic dialectics, which allows considering the political philosophy of Malcolm X in dynamics in accordance with the principle of historicism. Special attention is paid to the issues of radicalism, the transformation of ideological and political views and attitudes to religion, the debunking of myths, stereotypical and hyperbolized ideas about this figure, and the key milestones of his biography. As for the specific historical methods, the historical-genetic and historical-typological approaches are used in this work.


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