Search the Collection

Michael X

(1933-1975), Black activist

Michael X (Michael Abdul Malik, né Michael DeFreitas)

Sitter in 2 portraits
Black activist. Michael de Freitas was born in Trinidad, the son of a Portuguese shopkeeper and a Barbadian-born mother. In the 1960s as Michael X, he was the founder of the Black Power Movement in the UK, fighting for the rights of black people, with support from celebrities including John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Brought up as a Roman Catholic, he changed his name to Michael Abdul Malik when he converted to Islam. Despite his ignominous end Michael X played an important part in racial politics in Britain throughout the 1960s.

 Like voting
is closed

Thanks for Liking

Please Like other favourites!
If they inspire you please support our work.

Make a donation Close

List Thumbnail

Jabir Herbert Muhammad; Muhammad Ali; Michael X, by Graham Keen - NPG x199759

Jabir Herbert Muhammad; Muhammad Ali; Michael X

by Graham Keen
modern bromide print from original negative, 13 May 1966
NPG x199759

Michael X, by Horace Ové - NPG x126731

Michael X

by Horace Ové
giclée print, 1966
NPG x126731

Comments back to top

We are currently unable to accept new comments, but any past comments are available to read below.

If you need information from us, please use our Archive enquiry service . Please note that we cannot provide valuations. You can buy a print or greeting card of most illustrated portraits. Select the portrait of interest to you, then look out for a Buy a Print button. Prices start at around £6 for unframed prints, £16 for framed prints. If you wish to license an image, select the portrait of interest to you, then look out for a Use this image button, or contact our Rights and Images service. We digitise over 8,000 portraits a year and we cannot guarantee being able to digitise images that are not already scheduled.

Jo Tulloch

05 June 2022, 21:09

Michael was a charismatic but deeply flawed man who sought redemption by becoming a sincere advocate for black equality. He was the first person to use mass media to highlight racism towards black people in this country, and for a short while it appeared he might become a serious leader. In my experience his message of equality appealed to many oppressed black people who had arrived in the post-war wave of Caribbean immigration. Michael's personal weaknesses contributed to his downfall; but it was an unjust prison sentence under the new Race Relations Act 1965, the first in the UK to penalise racial discrimination, that embittered him and led ultimately to his descent into simple fraud. (Ironically, Michael - a black man - was the first person to be convicted under this law.) After his release he appeared to abandon any real political position and, faced with another criminal case, fled to Trinidad, where he founded a commune in which two people were murdered. Michael was convicted of the murder of his cousin, a barber, and hanged in Trinidad in 1975. (No-one was convicted of the murder of Gale Benson, the daughter of a British MP, who had travelled there with her boyfriend, an American known as Hakim Jamal, who had fled to the US after the murders.