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Malcolm X. Photo: Bob Parent/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Black civil rights leader Malcolm X rarely mentioned U.S. Latinos during his time as an outspoken civil rights advocate, but new information shows Latinos helped shape his experiences and upbringing.

The big picture: Malcolm X, later known as el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, was instrumental in shaping the narrative about people of color in the U.S. and the nation's legacy of discrimination, yet Latinos are often excluded from that story.

Driving the news: Two men convicted of killing Malcolm X in 1965 were exonerated after spending decades in prison, following the Netflix docu-series "Who Killed Malcolm X?" that questioned their conviction.

  • Malikah Shabazz, one of the youngest daughters of Malcolm X and his wife Betty Shabazz, was found dead earlier this month in Brooklyn, N.Y. Authorities said her death didn't appear to be suspicious and may be related to food poisoning.
  • Earlier this year, the family of Malcolm X released a letter purportedly written by a now-deceased police officer alleging that the New York Police Department and FBI were behind his assassination.

Catch up fast: Malcolm's mother, Louise Little, was born in the West Indies island of Grenada and was a fluent Spanish speaker. She wrote articles for newspapers linked to Jamaican and Black nationalist Marcus Garvey.

  • His family moved to Omaha, Neb., Milwaukee, Wis., and Lansing, Mich., in areas linked to the migration of Mexican American migrant farmworkers.
  • According to the Pulitzer-prizing winning biography, "The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X," by the late Les Payne and Tamara Payne, a young Malcolm learned to grow better marijuana from Mexican migrants in Lansing.
  • "Malcolm befriended immigrants up from Mexico who brought along their seeds and planted the weed in vacant lots along the noncommercial plants growing in the wild," the authors wrote. He'd grow it to sell for income.

The intrigue: Later as a street hustler in Harlem, Malcolm worked in an environment along with Puerto Rican and Cuban migrants but said little of those experiences in his autobiography.

Yes, but: As a convert to the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X didn't acknowledge in his Black nationalist speeches the struggles of Puerto Ricans and other Black Latinos in connection with the legacy of slavery.

  • In one television appearance in 1963 about demands the federal government help all children of color, he falsely claimed, “Puerto Ricans weren’t enslaved. This is a problem that stems from slavery and this compensation comes to people who were enslaved by the white man for 400 years.”
  • “The Puerto Ricans don’t even fit into this picture…the problem is a Negro problem,” he said.

Reality Check: Puerto Rico was a Spanish colony founded in part the foster the African slave trade in North America, and many Puerto Ricans in the U.S. are descendants of enslaved people.

Don't forget: During Malcolm X's time in the Nation of Islam, most of the country outside of the American Southwest knew very little about the legacy of discrimination and racial terror Mexican Americans faced.

  • He didn't engage with Mexican American civil rights leaders in Houston and Los Angeles and died before the more racial Chicano Movement developed.

Be smart: Chicano Movement and Puerto Rican Young Lords activists would adopt some of Malcolm X's anticolonialist and nationalist philosophies about self-determination.

  • Chicano leaders José Angel Gutiérrez, Rodolfo Gonzales, and Reies Lopez Tijerina would give speeches influenced by Malcolm X and would adapt their language to suit Latino audiences seeking civil rights.

Go deeper

LatCrits: How Latinos shaped Critical Race Theory

Photo illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios. Photos: Courtesy of Richard Delgado and Margaret Montoya.

Critical race theory is an academic framework that examines systemic racism in the U.S. legal system. Richard Delgado, the son of a Mexican immigrant, helped develop the framework five decades ago.

Why it matters: CRT is under attack by some conservatives who falsely claim the graduate school-level concepts are being taught in elementary and high schools. But not only is CRT routinely misunderstood, the Latino contributions to the field also are overlooked.

Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers

President Biden speaking from Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Jan. 21. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal workers on Friday, citing the outcome of last week's Supreme Court ruling that nullified the administration's vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

Why it matters: It's a blow to President Biden's efforts to increase the U.S.' vaccination rates, though much of the federal workforce has already been vaccinated against the virus.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker