Following the murder of his father, Earl, an avid support of Marcus Garvey, and his mother’s institutionalization, Malcolm Little was orphaned. At 17, he was a pimp, drug dealer and bookie extraordinaire in Harlem. While serving a 10-year sentence for burglary, Malcolm converted to Islam, changed his name to Malcolm X and dramatically altered his life. Upon release from jail, he became a leader in the Nation of Islam. A charismatic speaker, on February 21, 1965, while on stage giving a speech in Manhattan, he was rushed and shot 15 times by three gunmen.
Photo: Time and Life Images/Getty Images