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The Autobiography of Malcolm X

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The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley was published in 1965. It is national best seller about the life and times of Malcolm X. On May 19, 1925 Malcolm Little was born in Omaha, Nebraska. His father was a preacher who spoke out about the unity of black people. This caused several white racists to strike out against Malcolm's father and his family violently. His family moved to Lansing, Michigan where Malcolm, his parents, brothers, and sisters were shot at, burned out of their home, harassed, and threatened. When Malcolm was 6 years old, his father was murdered by a white man. After his father's death his mother had a nervous breakdown and the family got split up by welfare agencies. Malcolm was placed in a lot of different schools and boardinghouses. He was a good student and wanted to be a lawyer someday, but a teacher told him that because he was black he should take up carpentry instead. At age 15 he dropped out of school and moved to Boston to live with his half sister Ella. He quickly sees the fast pace life of Detroit. To get money he shined shoes, worked at a soda fountain, worked at a restaurant and on a railroad kitchen crew.

Later he moved to the black Harlem section of New York City where he sold drugs, became a thief, and was involved with a lot of hoodlums and pimps. He moved back to Boston and got arrested for burglary. While he was in prison he learned about the Nation of Islam and later joined the Islamic religion. He was released from prison in 1952 and went to be with his brother in Detroit where he replaced his last name, Little, with X to symbolize his lost true African family name. The Islamic religion taught that white people were devils so Malcolm went around speaking out against whites at universities and other places. He returned to New York and became minister of the Harlem temple. For 12 years he preached that the white man was the devil and Muhammad was God's messenger. In 1964 he left the Nation of Islam and said "I feel like a man who has been asleep somewhat and under someone else's control. I feel what I'm thinking and saying now is for myself. Before, it was for and by guidance of another, now I think with my own mind."(Haley 312) He was 38 years old when he left the Islamic religion and started his own group, Organization of Afro-American Unity.

He went to Mecca, known as the Hajj, and this is a religious obligation that every orthodox Muslim does at least once in a lifetime. On his pilgrimage to Mecca is where he started looking at things differently. He saw that in the Muslim world the white man is brotherly. He met with, talked to, and ate with people who in America were considered white. He now wanted to unite people of all races under the power of one God and believed that blacks all over the world should join to combat racism. Malcolm returned from the pilgrimage as El-Hajj Malik al-Shabazz. His pilgrimage broadened his outlook on life. During his visit in the Holy Land he saw all races, all colors in true brotherhood living in unity, living as one, and worshipping as one. He was questioned about this because in the past he had preached out that whites were the devil and now he said that he will never be guilty of that again. His friends are now black, brown, red, yellow, and white, which includes capitalists, socialists, and communists. He now speaks out to his Harlem audience about peace and proclaims that he is not a racist in any form, and he doesn't believe in any form of discrimination or segregation. On February 21, 1965 three audience members at a lecture at Harlem's Audubon Ballroom, which Malcolm had rented for his new organization, shoot and killed Malcolm. Police arrested three suspects with Muslim affiliations who were later convicted.

Malcolm X relates to our class readings when we discuss the fading dream of racial integration, white backlash and Black Nationalism in chapter 22. As a growing number of young people become dissatisfied with the political and economic problems between themselves and white America they take a radical turn in the civil rights movement. Malcolm X influenced blacks because he dismissed the goal of racial integration and nonviolent resistance that Martin Luther King Jr. pushed for. He is also noted as a popular figure among the Nation of Islam, which is one of the religious groups the emerged in the 1920's that we discussed.

There really wasn't anything I didn't love about the Autobiography of Malcolm X as told by Alex Haley. First of all, it gave this greater than life figure of a remarkable man. The book was very smooth to read. It felt as if Malcolm X himself was sitting down explaining his life to me personally. The book is able to convey

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