The Man Who Helped Malcolm X Become Malcolm X

Martin Luther King and Malcolm X Waiting for Press Conference
Via Flickr
Abeni Jones
March 18, 2020

Malcolm X wrote that Bimbi was “the first man I had ever seen command total respect … with his words.” Other inmates and even prison guards would sit around and listen to him. 

Bimbi’s inspiration motivated X to become the legendary figure we all know today. But who was he?

John Elton Bembry grew up during the Great Depression in North Carolina and was orphaned young. Despite his brilliance, work was scarce. He tried to survive however he could, and ended up spending time in jail.

During one of those stints, his passion for education would change the world.

In the Malcolm X film, Bimbi is called “Baines” and not only encourages X to read, but introduces him to Islam - but that part wasn’t true.

Bimbi and Malcolm did develop a friendship, and Bimbi’s intellect and power inspired X to develop his own. That push toward self-enlightenment put him on a path to become one of the greatest Black leaders of all time.

Education and self-improvement are powerful forces that can enlighten us in the worst circumstances - even incarceration. 

But they can also empower others - for what might have become of Malcom X if he had never met and been inspired by Bimbi, and how radically different might our lives have become?

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