The Explosive Chapter Left Out of Malcolm X’s Autobiography

The Explosive Chapter Left Out of Malcolm X’s Autobiography

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

It’s not often that a little-known chapter from one of the most important books of the 20th century emerges into the public sphere. Especially one in which a prominent civil-rights figure delivers a stern rebuke to his race.

In July 2018, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture sent shockwaves through the history community when it placed the winning bid on an unpublished, 25-page typed chapter called “The Negro” that had been excluded from The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Also part of their purchase: a 241-page manuscript of the full book, complete with handwritten notes by both Malcolm and his co-author Alex Haley.

The documents had long been buried in private hands—first with Haley, the journalist and author who completed the Autobiography after Malcolm’s death, and later with a Detroit collector. When the material came to auction in 2018, the Schomburg bought the documents and finally brought them to light.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X is a monumental work,” said Kevin Young, director of the Schomburg, after the auction. “To actually see how that book took shape through Malcolm X’s handwritten corrections and notes is very powerful… The omitted chapter…places the work in a new context... The possibilities for new revelations are nearly endless.”

Zaheer Ali, oral historian at the Brooklyn Historical Society, who served as project manager of the Malcom X Project at Columbia University and lead researcher for Manning Marable’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, is one of the scholars who had eagerly awaited the newfound material. HISTORY talked with Ali about the two authors' battle over the book's structure, the fierceness of its rediscovered chapter—and how it changes what we know about Malcolm X.

READ MORE: 7 Things You May Not Know About Malcolm X

HISTORY: Many consider The Autobiography of Malcolm X to be one of the essential texts of the 20th century. Why, in your view, is that the case?

Ali: Because his experiences touch on so many significant currents in American history and black history. Born in 1925, he experienced racial violence as a young child, when his father was killed, many believe, at the hands of the Black Legion, a kind of northern version of the Ku Klux Klan. His family endured the grinding poverty of the Great Depression, made worse by his father’s death and mother’s mental breakdown. As a teen, he experienced early integration: After his family disintegrated, he was sent to live with a white foster family and attended a predominantly white school. As a young man, he lived in major urban centers in Boston and Harlem, when the black population was transforming from a rural southern one to an urban northern one. And like too many young black men, he spent time incarcerated by the criminal-justice system. And that’s just the first 25 years of his life.

That progression alone would be a powerful story to tell. But what’s even more compelling is his personal transformation: his conversion, in prison, to the Nation of Islam, or NOI…his rise to becoming its national spokesman…and finding himself in dialogue with other civil-rights leaders in the 1950s and 1960s, the pivotal turning point in the 20 century in terms of America’s experience with race. Ultimately the Autobiography is the story of one man, it’s the story of a people, and it’s a call to action all wrapped into one. That’s the brilliance of this text.

When this long-buried chapter came to light, how did Malcolm X scholars react?

These documents had become legendary for people who studied Malcolm. People thought these maybe held the keys to unlocking the direction Malcolm was going in and what he was really thinking, what his ideas really were. Some thought these would be part of the finishing of his story, which was cut short by his assassination at age 39.

READ MORE: The Unsolved Mystery of the First People Killed During the Civil Rights Movement

How did Haley get involved in the Autobiography?

As the civil-rights movement was gaining steam, the Nation of Islam, which married teachings of traditional Islam with messages of black empowerment, had come to national attention. So in 1962 Haley wrote a story for Playboy on Malcolm and the NOI. But after the interview, Haley became interested in Malcolm’s personal story. From the beginning, Malcolm resisted and suggested that Haley profile Elijah Muhammad, the movement’s longtime leader. Haley pushed back. They embarked on the project later in 1962.

What was Malcolm’s vision for the book?

From the outset, Malcolm wanted to showcase the transformative power of the teachings of the Nation of Islam. The book was to be dedicated to Elijah Muhammad and the royalties would go the organization.

He envisioned the book as a collection of speech-like essays on race relations in America and solutions for black Americans, rooted in NOI teachings. It would be prefaced by three chapters, including one introducing Malcolm X and one introducing Elijah Muhammad. It really didn’t start out as an autobiography at all.

But that conflicted with Haley’s vision, right?

Right. This was the beginning of the tension between them over the book. Malcolm wanted to offer analysis of the community’s politics. Haley wanted to tell a story.

Haley wrote in the book’s epilogue about how hard it was to get Malcolm to talk about himself, how he kept pivoting to sociological analysis. You can see it in the handwritten notes he put in the margins of the manuscript—things like, “Stop speechifying” and “Show, don’t tell” and “Isn’t there a better way to get this across?” He really pushed Malcolm to ground his message in a narrative. Malcolm’s notes, meanwhile, are mostly factual corrections.

The turning point came when Haley asked Malcolm about his mother, Louise Little. She had suffered a breakdown after his father’s death and was institutionalized, and Malcolm had not seen her for 20-some years. Asking Malcolm about his mother really opened him up to relating his family story, which formed the core of what Haley wanted to tell.

READ MORE: The 'Silent' Protest that Kick-Started the Civil Rights Movement

So ultimately Haley got his way?

As they worked together, the project changed. The personal narrative grew and the number of essays shrunk. Instead of three introductory chapters to a series of essays, the book became multiple chapters with three essays.

Where does the rediscovered chapter fit in?

Well ultimately, it didn’t, right? This is a remnant of what the old book was to be. If Alex Haley thought Malcolm was speechifying too much, “The Negro” is Malcolm straight-up doing just that—about the conditions that beset black people in America.

Was there any significance to the title?

For many of us familiar with the terminology of the 1950s and 60s, the word “negro” sounds unremarkable. But for Malcolm, coming out of the Nation of Islam’s teachings, the word meant something very specific. There was a folk etymology by which Malcolm connected “negro” to “necro,” meaning dead. In the NOI, the way they understood their process of reform, they called it the resurrection of the dead. For them, the so-called “negro In America” needed to be resurrected.

For Malcom to use that word, it was a very specific invocation—that this was a chapter about the dead. Which places the writing of this to 1963, while he is still in the NOI—before he broke with them in 1964 and the relationship devolved into a toxic, violent one that ended in his assassination.

What was the thesis of ‘The Negro’ chapter?

It had several parts, but at its core it was an intense rebuke of black America. The first part is Malcolm’s diagnosis of this “sickness” whereby the “negro” has allowed himself to be destroyed by white America:

“The black man here in America, in every way he can be looked at and examined, is in a pitiful state of sickness. Sick economically. Politically. Mentally. Socially. Spiritually… Here is this sick, Christianity-duped, white man-duped, brainwashed race today, sittin-in and kneeling-in at the bottom of the ladder, looking up and hollering, ‘I’m just as good as you’ at the second and third and fourth-generation immigrants who are now the first-class citizens, and the aristocrats, of this so-called ‘melting pot’ country.”

He didn’t pull any punches, did he?

It’s a kind of thinking—that black people have been so damaged by slavery and Jim Crow segregation—that is dangerous. Because it’s couched in highlighting how vicious racism is, but it risks reducing the victims to powerless, resourceless, deficient, lacking people. He says, “Whenever you see a white man in a Cadillac, you know he first got himself a Cadillac bank account and then a Cadillac home.” By contrast, he says, the black man drives the second-hand Cadillac while he’s living in subsidized housing and can’t pay his bills. It’s a criticism that pathologizes black Americans in the context of white consumer ideals.

READ MORE: How Civil Rights 'Wade-Ins' Desegregated Southern Beaches

In what other ways does he critique black Americans?

He talks about how, unlike different immigrant groups that had risen above their circumstances by looking to themselves and their own communities, black Americans were still wallowing in oppression. In many ways, this is an intense self-critique. It’s saying you’re broken, negro, because you continue to depend on the system that breaks you. You’re going to the source of your illness for a cure.

“The black man in America today, clutching at the knees of the white man, begging to be ‘equal’ and begging to ‘integrate’ while the white man kicks and restricts and fends and bombs him off—this black man needs to wake up and realize that this is the white race who, once the pure black African was here, began the systematic stripping away of every vestige of his former culture—which was the beginning of the creation by the white man of the ‘negro.’ “

But what he doesn’t acknowledge is that there actually was a black migration experience—from the rural south to the urban north in search of jobs and opportunity. Like with immigrants who came to the U.S., it was very aspirational. Malcolm ignores the history of black American success and triumph, their migration north, their independent black towns and their businesses and their benevolent societies. He doesn’t talk about black success. Yes, many of these efforts were stymied and undercut by violence and systemic racism. But this argument Malcolm is making is really harsh. Maybe he’s saying it to shock people into action.

Were there any revelations?

He closes out with a call for electoral politics. This is really remarkable because many people peg his shift toward electoral politics to his “The Ballot or the Bullet” speech of April 1964. He actually talks about voting, he talks about the United Nations, where you can vote yes or no—or you can abstain. He talks about organizing voting blocs and the idea of withholding your vote until you get benefits from it. He talks about the black bloc using press, lobbying and leadership to influence the 1964 election.

It’s remarkable considering that this is October 1963, almost half a year before the “Ballot or Bullet” speech. It suggests there was more continuity in his thinking and that perhaps the NOI was more accommodating to political action than previously thought.

So, this marks a shift in understanding the NOI as well?

This idea of organizing black voting blocs isn’t that revolutionary. But it’s revolutionary to our understanding of the NOI and of how Malcolm was conceiving of political engagement.

Many people have read the Nation of Islam as a separatist organization that didn’t participate in any U.S. institutions—and therefore didn’t vote. They were independent citizens of their own nation. As a result, observers, scholars and historians thought not voting was hard-wired in the organization, ultimately limiting its efficacy. What this chapter suggests is that the NOI was moving to a place where it could see the vote as part of its political engagement.

Why do you think this chapter was excluded? Was it considered too controversial?

Really, Malcolm’s whole autobiography was considered too controversial to be published. The original publisher, Doubleday, dropped it after his assassination. Whatever Malcolm says in “The Negro” isn’t that much more controversial; it’s just harsh and polemical. The decision to exclude it had a lot more to do with the cohesiveness of the text that Haley was trying to establish. I don’t know if it really had a place.

Who decided to cut it?

Haley was the main player. I don’t know who else, if anyone, was part of that. I think including this chapter would have made it difficult for him to construct the story he wanted to tell: a narrative of Malcolm’s personal development marked by clear epiphanies that signal either complete or critical breaks with a previous stage of himself. In the beginning there’s Malcolm Little, who becomes “Detroit Red,” who becomes “Satan,” who becomes Malcolm X, then El Hajj Malik el Shabazz. People’s lives aren’t linear, they’re messier than that. But Alex wanted a clear flow.

This essay, written when it was written, muddles the supposed clean break Malcolm left when he left the NOI. I like to call it a shattering. He left with pieces and they left with pieces. They couldn’t rid themselves of their shared history and their shared work and their shared legacy.

I think the exclusion was a natural result of the evolution of the text into more of a story. In the end, by the time the book was published, Malcolm wasn’t around to make the final decision.

History Reads features the work of prominent authors and historians.

The rocky road to publication of book on Malcolm X

From the beginning, in the mid-1960s, Alex Haley was told his idea would never work. His agent insisted no publisher would print a book about a feared, even hated black leader. And the proposed subject of the book agreed.

Even when Haley won over his agent and found a publisher, events threatened to keep "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" from ever seeing print. When gunmen in Harlem's Audubon Ballroom ended the life of Malcolm X on Feb. 21, 1965, publisher Nelson Doubleday announced that out of fear of harm to his staff and to his bookstore in New York, Doubleday would not publish the book -- even though it had been set in type, ready to be !! printed.

Such were the uncertain origins of "The Autobiography of Malcolm X," which, 27 years later, surely stands as one of the great success stories in American publishing history. Journalist I. F. Stone wrote prophetically that "this book will have a permanent place in the literature of the Afro-American struggle," and the sales figures alone indicate this: More than 3 million copies have been printed since it was first published in October 1965.

"The Autobiography of Malcolm X," a story of a one-time dope peddler and hustler who became a charismatic international figure, has moved readers of all races for two generations, including filmmaker Spike Lee, whose movie biography of Malcolm X is set for release Wednesday.

In his new book, "By Any Means Necessary: The Trials and Tribulations of the Making of 'Malcolm X,' " Mr. Lee writes of the book's extraordinary impact when he read it as a junior high school student in Brooklyn in 1969-70: "I read it and thought, 'This is a great Black man, a strong Black man, a courageous Black man who did not back down from anybody, even toward his death. The Man. Malcolm."

The idea for the autobiography, Haley writes in his epilogue, came from an interview he did with Malcolm X for Playboy. It was a forthright, far-ranging interview, and Malcolm X, at the time still a leading figure in the Black Muslims, insisted the magazine would never publish it. Haley wrote:

". . . Malcolm repeatedly exclaimed, after particularly blistering anti-Christian or anti-white sentiments, 'You know that devil's not going to print that!' He was mightily taken aback when Playboy kept its word."

But when Haley then told his literary agent he wanted to help write Malcolm X's autobiography, he got a swift no. The idea was preposterous, said the agent, Paul Reynolds.

"Paul discouraged Alex mightily," said John Hawkins, who joined Reynolds' agency in 1966 and became Haley's agent in the mid-'70s. "But then Paul's daughter was home visiting from the University of Pennsylvania over the weekend. He told her about what he had said to Alex.

"She had heard Malcolm speak at Penn, and told her father, 'No, no, you are wrong. This guy speaks to younger people. He is something special.' And on Monday morning Reynolds called Alex back and told him they should do it."

He said Mr. Reynolds, whom he described as prim and proper, first had to get the approval of Malcolm X and Black Muslim

leader Elijah Muhammad. They met at a coffee house in Harlem, where "they talked about the book, quoted Shakespeare back to each other," Mr. Hawkins recalled. "And in the end they got the go-ahead from Muhammad."

The contract was secured with Doubleday, and Haley began his interview sessions with Malcolm X. As Haley describes in the book, "To use a word he liked, I think both of us were a little bit 'spooky.' Sitting right there and staring at me was the fiery Malcolm X who could be as acid toward Negroes who angered him as he was against whites in general."

It didn't look good at the beginning: "For perhaps a month I was afraid we weren't going to get any book." But he and Malcolm X began to get comfortable, and in time "shared a mutual camaraderie that, although it was never verbally expressed, was a warm one."

It was an unusual collaboration. Haley writes that at the outset, Malcolm X insisted on a written agreement: "Nothing can be in this book's manuscript that I didn't say, and nothing can be left out that I want in it." Haley, in turn, insisted he be allowed to write a chapter at the end that would not be subject to review by Malcolm X.

Gregory Reed, a Detroit attorney who recently bought the "Autobiography" manuscript, says Haley and Malcolm X kept a running commentary on nearly every page.

"The notations by Malcolm would be in red and the ones by Haley in green," said Mr. Reed, who bought the manuscript last month for $100,000 at a Haley estate sale and also paid $21,000 for three chapters that had been deleted from the book. "Malcolm's use of language was extremely impressive. He would correct Haley in different areas. Haley would use an expression such as 'stupid,' and Malcolm would say, 'no, no, use "ignorant" -- there is a difference.' "

Malcolm X knew well that his autobiography would be, at the least, controversial, and quite possibly dangerous, as he split publicly with the Black Muslims while he was working on the book. Haley, writing his first book, "knew it was an explosive book," Mr. Hawkins said. "And he made sure that he and Malcolm went over every single word of the manuscript."

But when Malcolm X was murdered, it seemed the book would die as well. Doubleday announced a few weeks after his death that it was giving up all rights to the book. Reynolds and Haley set about finding a new publisher.

"They got turned down by a long list of publishing houses -- about 12-13, I think," Mr. Hawkins said. "Finally, after about two months, Grove Press agreed to take it and paid $20,000 for the rights."

In retrospect, Grove Press was probably the most likely publisher to take such a sensitive book. It had published such noted black authors as LeRoi Jones (now Amiri Baraka) and Julius Lester, and was also the publisher of revolutionary Che Guevara.

"Three or four of us at Grove read it overnight and made an offer the next day," said Richard Seaver, then editor-in-chief at Grove and now president of Arcade Publishing. "We just thought it was a terrific piece of work."

Barney Rosset, then the publisher of Grove, said he "did have some [safety] concerns, but I didn't let it deter me. On the whole, I liked the whole feeling of the strong activist viewpoint of Malcolm. Religiously, he left me cold, but he had a strong attitude on behalf of black people -- his call to self-reliance and equality."

Mr. Seaver recalled that "there was further editing done with Alex Haley, but it was not substantial -- mostly some line editing and then the epilogue. Mostly, though, we were very sensitive about not making major changes because of the nature of the situation."

The book finally was published in October 1965 with a respectable first printing of 10,000. From the beginning, the critical reception was outstanding -- the New York Times, for instance, called it "a brilliant, painful, important book." And, Mr. Seaver says, fears about security proved groundless.

Mr. Rosset says the book sold well in hardcover "but never became a best seller. But when it went paperback in 1966, it was a consistent seller. We probably had a half-million in print by the ,, early 1970s."

The book's staying power continued when Ballantine got the paperback publishing rights in 1973. According to spokeswoman Beverly Robinson, more than 2.5 million copies of "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" have been printed by Ballantine, including a remarkable 500,000 in its 33rd and most recent printing this month. Outside the United States, the book has been published in at least 15 languages, says Sharon Friedman, an associate in Mr. Hawkins' literary agency in New York.

Twenty-seven years after the book's publication, Barney Rosset says that, as the man who brought it into print, he's not surprised by its success.

"I think what remains relevant is not so much the message but the feelings -- this book understands the depths of the feelings of black people," he said. "I've had teachers tell me it is very useful in teaching black kids how to read. The book has a power that has gone beyond what is normal in a book. It is extraordinary."

11. The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

I want to say before I go on that I have never previously told anyone my sordid past in detail. I haven't done it now to sound as though I might be proud of how bad, how evil, I was. But people are always speculating—why am I as I am? To understand that of any person, his whole life, from birth, must be reviewed. […] The full story is the best way that I know to have it seen, and understood, that I had sunk to the very bottom of the American white man's society when—soon now, in prison—I found Allah and the religion of Islam and it completely transformed my life. (ch. 9)

The Autobiography of Malcolm X (as told to Alex Haley) emerges from a specific time and place and yet, despite feeling very much of that moment, still resonates with issues that American culture is dealing with today—and is still a powerfully written book. Chris and Suzanne discuss its historical context, the formal questions of autobiography, writing to be read by wildly different audiences, conversion narratives, and what Malcolm X might have made of today’s America.

FUBU Is Back With A Relaunch Of The Iconic Fashion Brand | According 2 Hip Hop

As the first product created under FUBU’s “Can’t Resist a Classic” campaign, the capsule references the brand’s ‘90s-era styles, offering 10 pieces based on the classics that helped to crystallize streetwear’s signature staples. The collection includes sweatshirts and long- and short-sleeve T-shirts in the brand’s trademark reds and blues as well as more neutral colors. Some pieces are emblazoned with “Bronx” and “Brooklyn,” spotlighting the brand’s New York City heritage.

FUBU was once carried in 5,000 stores around the globe during its heyday in the 1990s, said the brand’s vice president Keith Perrin, but today, selling through e-commerce and with “strategic partners” makes more sense.

“When the idea came up about reemerging our brand, we felt Century 21’s downtown location was the best fit—if you’re developing a relationship with a brick-and-mortar store you couldn’t ask for a better partner to reach diverse consumers,” Perrin explained. “Century 21 has always been the place to find premium clothes at a good price.”

Download Now!

We have made it easy for you to find a PDF Ebooks without any digging. And by having access to our ebooks online or by storing it on your computer, you have convenient answers with Autobiography Of Malcolm X As Told To Alex Haley . To get started finding Autobiography Of Malcolm X As Told To Alex Haley , you are right to find our website which has a comprehensive collection of manuals listed.
Our library is the biggest of these that have literally hundreds of thousands of different products represented.

Finally I get this ebook, thanks for all these Autobiography Of Malcolm X As Told To Alex Haley I can get now!

I did not think that this would work, my best friend showed me this website, and it does! I get my most wanted eBook

wtf this great ebook for free?!

My friends are so mad that they do not know how I have all the high quality ebook which they do not!

It's very easy to get quality ebooks )

so many fake sites. this is the first one which worked! Many thanks

wtffff i do not understand this!

Just select your click then download button, and complete an offer to start downloading the ebook. If there is a survey it only takes 5 minutes, try any survey which works for you.

The Explosive Chapter Left Out of Malcolm X’s Autobiography - HISTORY

I did write to Elijah Muhammad. He lived in Chicago at that time, at 6116 South Michigan Avenue. Atleast twenty-five times I must have written that first one-page letter to him, over and over. I wastrying to make it both legible and understandable. I practically couldn't read my handwriting myselfit shames even to remember it. My spelling and my grammar were as bad, if not worse. Anyway, aswell as I could express it, I said I had been told about him by my brothers and sisters, and I apologizedfor my poor letter.

Mr. Muhammad sent me a typed reply. It had an all but electrical effect upon me to see the signatureof the "Messenger of Allah." After he welcomed me into the "true knowledge," he gave me somethingto think about. The black prisoner, he said, symbolized white society's crime of keeping black menoppressed and deprived and ignorant, and unable to get decent jobs, turning them into criminals.

He told me to have courage. He even enclosed some money for me, a five-dollar bill. Mr. Muhammad sends money all over the country to prison inmates who write to him, probably to this day.

Regularly my family wrote to me, "Turn to Allah . . . pray to the East."The hardest test I ever faced in my life was praying. You understand. My comprehending, mybelieving the teachings of Mr. Muhammad had only required my mind's saying to me, "That's right!"or "I never thought of that."But bending my knees to pray-that _act_-well, that took me a week.

You know what my life had been. Picking a lock to rob someone's house was the only way my kneeshad ever been bent before.

I had to force myself to bend my knees. And waves of shame and embarrassment would force me backup.

For evil to bend its knees, admitting its guilt, to implore the forgiveness of God, is the hardest thing inthe world. It's easy for me to see and to say that now. But then, when I was the personification of evil, Iwas going through it. Again, again, I would force myself back down into the praying-to-Allah posture.

When finally I was able to make myself stay down-I didn't know what to say to Allah.

For the next years, I was the nearest thing to a hermit in the Norfolk Prison Colony. I never have beenmore busy in my life. I still marvel at how swiftly my previous life's thinking pattern slid away fromme, like snow off a roof. It is as though someone else I knew of had lived by hustling and crime. Iwould be startled to catch myself thinking in a remote way of my earlier self as another person.

The things I felt, I was pitifully unable to express in the one-page letter that went every day to Mr.

Elijah Muhammad. And I wrote at least one more daily letter, replying to one of my brothers andsisters. Every letter I received from them added something to my knowledge of the teachings of Mr.

Muhammad. I would sit for long periods and study his photographs.

I've never been one for inaction. Everything I've ever felt strongly about, I've done something about. Iguess that's why, unable to do anything else, I soon began writing to people I had known in thehustling world, such as Sammy the Pimp, John Hughes, the gambling-house owner, the thiefJumpsteady, and several dope peddlers. I wrote them all about Allah and Islam and Mr. ElijahMuhammad. I had no idea where most of them lived. I addressed their letters in care of the Harlem orRoxbury bars and clubs where I'd known them.

I never got a single reply. The average hustler and criminal was too uneducated to write a letter. Ihave known many slick, sharp-looking hustlers, who would have you think they had an interest inWall Street privately, they would get someone else to read a letter if they received one. Besides,neither would I have replied to anyone writing me something as wild as "the white man is the devil." What certainly went on the Harlem and Roxbury wires was that Detroit Red was going crazy in stir, orelse he was trying some hype to shake up the warden's office.

During the years that I stayed in the Norfolk Prison Colony, never did any official directly sayanything to me about those letters, although, of course, they all passed through the prison censorship.

I'm sure, however, they monitored what I wrote to add to the files which every state and federalprison keeps on the conversion of Negro inmates by the teachings of Mr. Elijah Muhammad.

But at that time, I felt that the real reason was that the white man knew that he was the devil.

Later on, I even wrote to the Mayor of Boston, to the Governor of Massachusetts, and to Harry STruman. They never answered they probably never even saw my letters. I hand-scratched to themhow the white man's society was responsible for the black man's condition in this wilderness of NorthAmerica.

It was because of my letters that I happened to stumble upon starting to acquire some kind of ahomemade education.

I became increasingly frustrated at not being able to express what I wanted to convey in letters that Iwrote, especially those to Mr. Elijah Muhammad. In the street, I had been the most articulate hustlerout there-I had commanded attention when I said something. But now, trying to write simple English,I not only wasn't articulate, I wasn't even functional. How would I sound writing in slang, the way Iwould say it, something such as, "Look, daddy, let me pull your coat about a cat, Elijah Muhammad-"Many who today hear me somewhere in person, or on television, or those who read something I'vesaid, will think I went to school far beyond the eighth grade. This impression is due entirely to myprison studies.

It had really begun back in the Charlestown Prison, when Bimbi first made me feel envy of his stock ofknowledge. Bimbi had always taken charge of any conversation he was in, and I had tried to emulatehim. But every book I picked up had few sentences which didn't contain anywhere from one to nearlyall of the words that might as well have been in Chinese. When I just skipped those words, of course, Ireally ended up with little idea of what the book said. So I had come to the Norfolk Prison Colony stillgoing through only book-reading motions. Pretty soon, I would have quit even these motions, unless Ihad received the motivation that I did.

I saw that the best thing I could do was get hold of a dictionary-to study, to learn some words. I waslucky enough to reason also that I should try to improve my penmanship. It was sad. I couldn't evenwrite in a straight line. It was both ideas together that moved me to request a dictionary along withsome tablets and pencils from the Norfolk Prison Colony school.

I spent two days just riffling uncertainly through the dictionary's pages. I'd never realized so manywords existed! I didn't know _which_ words I needed to learn. Finally, just to start some kind of action, I began copying.

In my slow, painstaking, ragged handwriting, I copied into my tablet everything printed on that firstpage, down to the punctuation marks.

I believe it took me a day. Then, aloud, I read back, to myself, everything I'd written on the tablet.

Over and over, aloud, to myself, I read my own handwriting.

I woke up the next morning, thinking about those words-immensely proud to realize that not only hadI written so much at one time, but I'd written words that I never knew were in the world. Moreover,with a little effort, I also could remember what many of these words meant. I reviewed the wordswhose meanings I didn't remember. Funny thing, from the dictionary first page right now, that"aardvark" springs to my mind. The dictionary had a picture of it, a long-tailed, long-eared, burrowingAfrican mammal, which lives off termites caught by sticking out its tongue as an anteater does forants.

I was so fascinated that I went on-I copied the dictionary's next page. And the same experience camewhen I studied that. With every succeeding page, I also learned of people and places and events fromhistory. Actually the dictionary is like a miniature encyclopedia. Finally the dictionary's A section hadfilled a whole tablet-and I went on into the B's. That was the way I started copying what eventuallybecame the entire dictionary. It went a lot faster after so much practice helped me to pick uphandwriting speed. Between what I wrote in my tablet, and writing letters, during the rest of my timein prison I would guess I wrote a million words.

I suppose it was inevitable that as my word-base broadened, I could for the first time pick up a bookand read and now begin to understand what the book was saying. Anyone who has read a great dealcan imagine the new world that opened. Let me tell you something: from then until I left that prison,in every free moment I had, if I was not reading in the library, I was reading on my bunk. You couldn'thave gotten me out of books with a wedge. Between Mr. Muhammad's teachings, my correspondence,my visitors-usually Ella and Reginald-and my reading of books, months passed without my eventhinking about being imprisoned. In fact, up to then, I never had been so truly free in my life.

The Norfolk Prison Colony's library was in the school building. A variety of classes was taught thereby instructors who came from such places as Harvard and Boston universities. The weekly debatesbetween inmate teams were also held in the school building. You would be astonished to know howworked up convict debaters and audiences would get over subjects like "Should Babies Be Fed Milk?"Available on the prison library's shelves were books on just about every general subject. Much of thebig private collection that Parkhurst had willed to the prison was still in crates and boxes in the backof the library-thousands of old books. Some of them looked ancient: covers faded, old-timeparchment-looking binding. Parkhurst, I've mentioned, seemed to have been principally interested inhistory and religion. He had the money and the special interest to have a lot of books that youwouldn't have in general circulation. Any college library would have been lucky to get that collection.

As you can imagine, especially in a prison where there was heavy emphasis on rehabilitation, aninmate was smiled upon if he demonstrated an unusually intense interest in books. There was asizable number of well-read inmates, especially the popular debaters. Some were said by many to bepractically walking encyclopedias. They were almost celebrities. No university would ask any studentto devour literature as I did when this new world opened to me, of being able to read and_understand_.

I read more in my room than in the library itself. An inmate who was known to read a lot could checkout more than the permitted maximum number of books. I preferred reading in the total isolation ofmy own room.

When I had progressed to really serious reading, every night at about ten P. M. I would be outragedwith the "lights out." It always seemed to catch me right in the middle of something engrossing.

Fortunately, right outside my door was a corridor light that cast a glow into my room. The glow wasenough to read by, once my eyes adjusted to it. So when "lights out" came, I would sit on the floorwhere I could continue reading in that glow.

At one-hour intervals the night guards paced past every room. Each time I heard the approachingfootsteps, I jumped into bed and feigned sleep. And as soon as the guard passed, I got back out of bedonto the floor area of that light-glow, where I would read for another fifty-eight minutes-until theguard approached again. That went on until three or four every morning. Three or four hours of sleepa night was enough for me. Often in the years in the streets I had slept less than that.

The teachings of Mr. Muhammad stressed how history had been "whitened"-when white men hadwritten history books, the black man simply had been left out. Mr. Muhammad couldn't have saidanything that would have struck me much harder. I had never forgotten how when my class, me andall of those whites, had studied seventh-grade United States history back in Mason, the history of theNegro had been covered in one paragraph, and the teacher had gotten a big laugh with his joke,"Negroes' feet are so big that when they walk, they leave a hole in the ground."This is one reason why Mr. Muhammad's teachings spread so swiftly all over the United States,among _all_ Negroes, whether or not they became followers of Mr. Muhammad. The teachings ringtrue-to every Negro. You can hardly show me a black adult in America-or a white one, for that matter-who knows from the history books anything like the truth about the black man's role. In my own case,once I heard of the "glorious history of the black man," I took special pains to hunt in the library forbooks that would inform me on details about black history.

I can remember accurately the very first set of books that really impressed me. I have since bought thatset of books and have it at home for my children to read as they grow up. It's called _Wonders of the World_. It's full of pictures of archaeological finds, statues that depict, usually, non-European people.

I found books like Will Durant's _Story of Civilization_. I read H. G. Wells' _Outline of History_.

_Souls Of Black Folk_ by W. E. B. Du Bois gave me a glimpse into the black people's history beforethey came to this country. Carter G. Woodson's _Negro History_ opened my eyes about black empiresbefore the black slave was brought to the United States, and the early Negro struggles for freedom.

J. A. Rogers' three volumes of _Sex and Race_ told about race-mixing before Christ's time aboutAesop being a black man who told fables about Egypt's Pharaohs about the great Coptic ChristianEmpires about Ethiopia, the earth's oldest continuous black civilization, as China is the oldestcontinuous civilization.

Mr. Muhammad's teaching about how the white man had been created led me to _Findings InGenetics_ by Gregor Mendel. (The dictionary's G section was where I had learned what "genetics"meant. ) I really studied this book by the Austrian monk. Reading it over and over, especially certainsections, helped me to understand that if you started with a black man, a white man could beproduced but starting with a white man, you never could produce a black man-because the whitegene is recessive. And since no one disputes that there was but one Original Man, the conclusion isclear.

During the last year or so, in the _New York Times_, Arnold Toynbee used the word "bleached" indescribing the white man. (His words were: "White (i.e. bleached) human beings of North Europeanorigin. . . .") Toynbee also referred to the European geographic area as only a peninsula of Asia. Hesaid there is no such thing as Europe. And if you look at the globe, you will see for yourself thatAmerica is only an extension of Asia. (But at the same time Toynbee is among those who have helpedto bleach history. He has written that Africa was the only continent that produced no history. Hewon't write that again. Every day now, the truth is coming to light. )I never will forget how shocked I was when I began reading about slavery's total horror. It made suchan impact upon me that it later became one of my favorite subjects when I became a minister of Mr.

Muhammad's. The world's most monstrous crime, the sin and the blood on the white man's hands, arealmost impossible to believe. Books like the one by Frederick Olmstead opened my eyes to the horrorssuffered when the slave was landed in the United States. The European woman, Fannie Kimball, whohad married a Southern white slaveowner, described how human beings were degraded. Of course Iread _Uncle Tom's Cabin_. In fact, I believe that's the only novel I have ever read since I startedserious reading.

Parkhurst's collection also contained some bound pamphlets of the Abolitionist Anti-Slavery Societyof New England. I read descriptions of atrocities, saw those illustrations of black slave women tied upand flogged with whips of black mothers watching their babies being dragged off, never to be seen bytheir mothers again of dogs after slaves, and of the fugitive slave catchers, evil white men with whipsand clubs and chains and guns. I read about the slave preacher Nat Turner, who put the fear of Godinto the white slavemaster. Nat Turner wasn't going around preaching pie-in-the-sky and "non violent" freedom for the black man. There in Virginia one night in 1831, Nat and seven other slavesstarted out at his master's home and through the night they went from one plantation "big house" tothe next, killing, until by the next morning 57 white people were dead and Nat had about 70 slavesfollowing him. White people, terrified for their lives, fled from their homes, locked themselves up inpublic buildings, hid in the woods, and some even left the state. A small army of soldiers took twomonths to catch and hang Nat Turner. Somewhere I have read where Nat Turner's example is said tohave inspired John Brown to invade Virginia and attack Harper's Ferry nearly thirty years later, withthirteen white men and five Negroes.

I read Herodotus, "the father of History," or, rather, I read about him. And I read the histories ofvarious nations, which opened my eyes gradually, then wider and wider, to how the whole world'swhite men had indeed acted like devils, pillaging and raping and bleeding and draining the wholeworld's non-white people. I remember, for instance, books such as Will Durant's story of Orientalcivilization, and Mahatma Gandhi's accounts of the struggle to drive the British out of India.

Book after book showed me how the white man had brought upon the world's black, brown, red, andyellow peoples every variety of the sufferings of exploitation. I saw how since the sixteenth century,the so-called "Christian trader" white man began to ply the seas in his lust for Asian and Africanempires, and plunder, and power. I read, I saw, how the white man never has gone among the nonwhite peoples bearing the Cross in the true manner and spirit of Christ's teachings-meek, humble, andChrist-like.

I perceived, as I read, how the collective white man had been actually nothing but a piraticalopportunist who used Faustian machinations to make his own Christianity his initial wedge incriminal conquests. First, always "religiously," he branded "heathen" and "pagan" labels upon ancientnon-white cultures and civilizations. The stage thus set, he then turned upon his non-white victims hisweapons of war.

I read how, entering India-half a _billion_ deeply religious brown people-the British white man, by1759, through promises, trickery and manipulations, controlled much of India through Great Britain'sEast India Company. The parasitical British administration kept tentacling out to half of thesubcontinent. In 1857, some of the desperate people of India finally mutinied-and, excepting theAfrican slave trade, nowhere has history recorded any more unnecessary bestial and ruthless humancarnage than the British suppression of the non-white Indian people.

Over 115 million African blacks-close to the 1930's population of the United States-were murdered orenslaved during the slave trade. And I read how when the slave market was glutted, the cannibalisticwhite powers of Europe next carved up, as their colonies, the richest areas of the black continent. AndEurope's chancelleries for the next century played a chess game of naked exploitation and power fromCape Horn to Cairo.

Ten guards and the warden couldn't have torn me out of those books. Not even Elijah Muhammadcould have been more eloquent than those books were in providing indisputable proof that the collective white man had acted like a devil in virtually every contact he had with the world's collectivenon-white man. I listen today to the radio, and watch television, and read the headlines about thecollective white man's fear and tension concerning China. When the white man professes ignoranceabout why the Chinese hate him so, my mind can't help flashing back to what I read, there in prison,about how the blood forebears of this same white man raped China at a time when China was trustingand helpless. Those original white "Christian traders" sent into China millions of pounds of opium. By1839, so many of the Chinese were addicts that China's desperate government destroyed twentythousand chests of opium. The first Opium War was promptly declared by the white man. Imagine!

Declaring _war_ upon someone who objects to being narcotized! The Chinese were severely beaten,with Chinese-invented gunpowder.

The Treaty of Nanking made China pay the British white man for the destroyed opium forced openChina's major ports to British trade forced China to abandon Hong Kong fixed China's import tariffsso low that cheap British articles soon flooded in, maiming China's industrial development.

After a second Opium War, the Tientsin Treaties legalized the ravaging opium trade, legalized aBritish-French-American control of China's customs. China tried delaying that Treaty's ratificationPeking was looted and burned.

"Kill the foreign white devils!" was the 1901 Chinese war cry in the Boxer Rebellion. Losing again, thistime the Chinese were driven from Peking's choicest areas. The vicious, arrogant white man put upthe famous signs, "Chinese and dogs not allowed."Red China after World War II closed its doors to the Western white world. Massive Chineseagricultural, scientific, and industrial efforts are described in a book that _Life_ magazine recentlypublished. Some observers inside Red China have reported that the world never has known such ahate-white campaign as is now going on in this non-white country where, present birth-ratescontinuing, in fifty more years Chinese will be half the earth's population. And it seems that someChinese chickens will soon come home to roost, with China's recent successful nuclear tests.

Let us face reality. We can see in the United Nations a new world order being shaped, along colorlines-an alliance among the non-white nations. America's U. N. Ambassador Adlai Stevensoncomplained not long ago that in the United Nations "a skin game" was being played. He was right. Hewas facing reality. A "skin game" _is_ being played. But Ambassador Stevenson sounded like JesseJames accusing the marshal of carrying a gun. Because who in the world's history ever has played aworse "skin game" than the white man?

Mr. Muhammad, to whom I was writing daily, had no idea of what a new world had opened up to methrough my efforts to document his teachings in books.

When I discovered philosophy, I tried to touch all the landmarks of philosophical development.

Gradually, I read most of the old philosophers, Occidental and Oriental. The Oriental philosopherswere the ones I came to prefer finally, my impression was that most Occidental philosophy hadlargely been borrowed from the Oriental thinkers. Socrates, for instance, traveled in Egypt. Somesources even say that Socrates was initiated into some of the Egyptian mysteries. Obviously Socratesgot some of his wisdom among the East's wise men.

I have often reflected upon the new vistas that reading opened to me. I knew right there in prison thatreading had changed forever the course of my life. As I see it today, the ability to read awoke insideme some long dormant craving to be mentally alive. I certainly wasn't seeking any degree, the way acollege confers a status symbol upon its students. My homemade education gave me, with everyadditional book that I read, a little bit more sensitivity to the deafness, dumbness, and blindness thatwas afflicting the black race in America. Not long ago, an English writer telephoned me from London,asking questions. One was, "What's your alma mater?" I told him, "Books." You will never catch mewith a free fifteen minutes in which I'm not studying something I feel might be able to help the blackman.

Yesterday I spoke in London, and both ways on the plane across the Atlantic I was studying adocument about how the United Nations proposes to insure the human rights of the oppressedminorities of the world. The American black man is the world's most shameful case of minorityoppression. What makes the black man think of himself as only an internal United States issue is just acatch-phrase, two words, "civil rights." How is the black man going to get "civil rights" before first hewins his _human_ rights? If the American black man will start thinking about his _human_ rights, andthen start thinking of himself as part of one of the world's great peoples, he will see he has a case forthe United Nations.

I can't think of a better case! Four hundred years of black blood and sweat invested here in America,and the white man still has the black man begging for what every immigrant fresh off the ship cantake for granted the minute he walks d.


Haley coauthored The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and also performed the basic functions of a ghostwriter and biographical amanuensis, [10] writing, compiling, and editing [11] the Autobiography based on more than 50 in-depth interviews he conducted with Malcolm X between 1963 and his subject's 1965 assassination. [12] The two first met in 1959, when Haley wrote an article about the Nation of Islam for Reader's Digest, and again when Haley interviewed Malcolm X for Playboy in 1962. [13]

In 1963 the Doubleday publishing company asked Haley to write a book about the life of Malcolm X. American writer and literary critic Harold Bloom writes, "When Haley approached Malcolm with the idea, Malcolm gave him a startled look . " [14] Haley recalls, "It was one of the few times I have ever seen him uncertain." [14] After Malcolm X was granted permission from Elijah Muhammad, he and Haley commenced work on the Autobiography, a process which began as two-and three-hour interview sessions at Haley's studio in Greenwich Village. [14] Bloom writes, "Malcolm was critical of Haley's middle-class status, as well as his Christian beliefs and twenty years of service in the U.S. Military." [14]

When work on the Autobiography began in early 1963, Haley grew frustrated with Malcolm X's tendency to speak only about Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam. Haley reminded him that the book was supposed to be about Malcolm X, not Muhammad or the Nation of Islam, a comment which angered Malcolm X. Haley eventually shifted the focus of the interviews toward the life of his subject when he asked Malcolm X about his mother: [15]

Though Haley is ostensibly a ghostwriter on the Autobiography, modern scholars tend to treat him as an essential and core collaborator who acted as an invisible figure in the composition of the work. [17] He minimized his own voice, and signed a contract to limit his authorial discretion in favor of producing what looked like verbatim copy. [18] However, Malcolm X biographer Manning Marable considers this view of Haley as simply a ghostwriter as a deliberate narrative construction of black scholars of the day who wanted to see the book as a singular creation of a dynamic leader and martyr. [19] Marable argues that a critical analysis of the Autobiography, or the full relationship between Malcolm X and Haley, does not support this view he describes it instead as a collaboration. [20]

Haley's contribution to the work is notable, and several scholars discuss how it should be characterized. [21] In a view shared by Eakin, Stone and Dyson, psychobiographical writer Eugene Victor Wolfenstein writes that Haley performed the duties of a quasi-psychoanalytic Freudian psychiatrist and spiritual confessor. [22] [23] Gillespie suggests, and Wolfenstein agrees, that the act of self-narration was itself a transformative process that spurred significant introspection and personal change in the life of its subject. [24]

Haley exercised discretion over content, [25] guided Malcolm X in critical stylistic and rhetorical choices, [26] and compiled the work. [27] In the epilogue to the Autobiography, Haley describes an agreement he made with Malcolm X, who demanded that: "Nothing can be in this book's manuscript that I didn't say and nothing can be left out that I want in it." [28] As such, Haley wrote an addendum to the contract specifically referring to the book as an "as told to" account. [28] In the agreement, Haley gained an "important concession": "I asked for—and he gave—his permission that at the end of the book I could write comments of my own about him which would not be subject to his review." [28] These comments became the epilogue to the Autobiography, which Haley wrote after the death of his subject. [29]

Narrative presentation

In "Malcolm X: The Art of Autobiography", writer and professor John Edgar Wideman examines in detail the narrative landscapes found in biography. Wideman suggests that as a writer, Haley was attempting to satisfy "multiple allegiances": to his subject, to his publisher, to his "editor's agenda", and to himself. [30] Haley was an important contributor to the Autobiography's popular appeal, writes Wideman. [31] Wideman expounds upon the "inevitable compromise" of biographers, [30] and argues that in order to allow readers to insert themselves into the broader socio-psychological narrative, neither coauthor's voice is as strong as it could have been. [32] Wideman details some of the specific pitfalls Haley encountered while coauthoring the Autobiography:

In the body of the Autobiography, Wideman writes, Haley's authorial agency is seemingly absent: "Haley does so much with so little fuss . an approach that appears so rudimentary in fact conceals sophisticated choices, quiet mastery of a medium". [29] Wideman argues that Haley wrote the body of the Autobiography in a manner of Malcolm X's choosing and the epilogue as an extension of the biography itself, his subject having given him carte blanche for the chapter. Haley's voice in the body of the book is a tactic, Wideman writes, producing a text nominally written by Malcolm X but seemingly written by no author. [30] The subsumption of Haley's own voice in the narrative allows the reader to feel as though the voice of Malcolm X is speaking directly and continuously, a stylistic tactic that, in Wideman's view, was a matter of Haley's authorial choice: "Haley grants Malcolm the tyrannical authority of an author, a disembodied speaker whose implied presence blends into the reader's imagining of the tale being told." [33]

In "Two Create One: The Act of Collaboration in Recent Black Autobiography: Ossie Guffy, Nate Shaw, and Malcolm X", Stone argues that Haley played an "essential role" in "recovering the historical identity" of Malcolm X. [34] Stone also reminds the reader that collaboration is a cooperative endeavor, requiring more than Haley's prose alone can provide, "convincing and coherent" as it may be: [35]

In Stone's estimation, supported by Wideman, the source of autobiographical material and the efforts made to shape them into a workable narrative are distinct, and of equal value in a critical assessment of the collaboration that produced the Autobiography. [37] While Haley's skills as writer have significant influence on the narrative's shape, Stone writes, they require a "subject possessed of a powerful memory and imagination" to produce a workable narrative. [35]

Collaboration between Malcolm X and Haley

The collaboration between Malcolm X and Haley took on many dimensions editing, revising and composing the Autobiography was a power struggle between two men with sometimes competing ideas of the final shape for the book. Haley "took pains to show how Malcolm dominated their relationship and tried to control the composition of the book", writes Rampersad. [38] Rampersad also writes that Haley was aware that memory is selective and that autobiographies are "almost by definition projects in fiction", and that it was his responsibility as biographer to select material based on his authorial discretion. [38] The narrative shape crafted by Haley and Malcolm X is the result of a life account "distorted and diminished" by the "process of selection", Rampersad suggests, yet the narrative's shape may in actuality be more revealing than the narrative itself. [39] In the epilogue Haley describes the process used to edit the manuscript, giving specific examples of how Malcolm X controlled the language. [40]

'You can't bless Allah!' he exclaimed, changing 'bless' to 'praise.' . He scratched red through 'we kids.' 'Kids are goats!' he exclaimed sharply.

While Haley ultimately deferred to Malcolm X's specific choice of words when composing the manuscript, [40] Wideman writes, "the nature of writing biography or autobiography . means that Haley's promise to Malcolm, his intent to be a 'dispassionate chronicler', is a matter of disguising, not removing, his authorial presence." [30] Haley played an important role in persuading Malcolm X not to re-edit the book as a polemic against Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam at a time when Haley already had most of the material needed to complete the book, and asserted his authorial agency when the Autobiography's "fractured construction", [41] caused by Malcolm X's rift with Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam, "overturned the design" [42] of the manuscript and created a narrative crisis. [43] In the Autobiography's epilogue, Haley describes the incident:

Haley's warning to avoid "telegraphing to readers" and his advice about "building suspense and drama" demonstrate his efforts to influence the narrative's content and assert his authorial agency while ultimately deferring final discretion to Malcolm X. [40] In the above passage Haley asserts his authorial presence, reminding his subject that as a writer he has concerns about narrative direction and focus, but presenting himself in such a way as to give no doubt that he deferred final approval to his subject. [44] In the words of Eakin, "Because this complex vision of his existence is clearly not that of the early sections of the Autobiography, Alex Haley and Malcolm X were forced to confront the consequences of this discontinuity in perspective for the narrative, already a year old." [45] Malcolm X, after giving the matter some thought, later accepted Haley's suggestion. [46]

While Marable argues that Malcolm X was his own best revisionist, he also points out that Haley's collaborative role in shaping the Autobiography was notable. Haley influenced the narrative's direction and tone while remaining faithful to his subject's syntax and diction. Marable writes that Haley worked "hundreds of sentences into paragraphs", and organized them into "subject areas". [20] Author William L. Andrews writes:

Andrews suggests that Haley's role expanded because the book's subject became less available to micro-manage the manuscript, and "Malcolm had eventually resigned himself" to allowing "Haley's ideas about effective storytelling" to shape the narrative. [47]

Marable studied the Autobiography manuscript "raw materials" archived by Haley's biographer, Anne Romaine, and described a critical element of the collaboration, Haley's writing tactic to capture the voice of his subject accurately, a disjoint system of data mining that included notes on scrap paper, in-depth interviews, and long "free style" discussions. Marable writes, "Malcolm also had a habit of scribbling notes to himself as he spoke." Haley would secretly "pocket these sketchy notes" and reassemble them in a sub rosa attempt to integrate Malcolm X's "subconscious reflections" into the "workable narrative". [20] This is an example of Haley asserting authorial agency during the writing of the Autobiography, indicating that their relationship was fraught with minor power struggles. Wideman and Rampersad agree with Marable's description of Haley's book-writing process. [27]

The timing of the collaboration meant that Haley occupied an advantageous position to document the multiple conversion experiences of Malcolm X and his challenge was to form them, however incongruent, into a cohesive workable narrative. Dyson suggests that "profound personal, intellectual, and ideological changes . led him to order events of his life to support a mythology of metamorphosis and transformation". [49] Marable addresses the confounding factors of the publisher and Haley's authorial influence, passages that support the argument that while Malcolm X may have considered Haley a ghostwriter, he acted in actuality as a coauthor, at times without Malcolm X's direct knowledge or expressed consent: [50]

Marable says the resulting text was stylistically and ideologically distinct from what Marable believes Malcolm X would have written without Haley's influence, and it also differs from what may have actually been said in the interviews between Haley and Malcolm X. [50]


In Making Malcolm: The Myth and Meaning of Malcolm X, Dyson criticizes historians and biographers of the time for re-purposing the Autobiography as a transcendent narrative by a "mythological" Malcolm X without being critical enough of the underlying ideas. [51] Further, because much of the available biographical studies of Malcolm X have been written by white authors, Dyson suggests their ability to "interpret black experience" is suspect. [52] The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Dyson says, reflects both Malcolm X's goal of narrating his life story for public consumption and Haley's political ideologies. [53] Dyson writes, "The Autobiography of Malcolm X . has been criticized for avoiding or distorting certain facts. Indeed, the autobiography is as much a testament to Haley's ingenuity in shaping the manuscript as it is a record of Malcolm's attempt to tell his story." [49]

Rampersad suggests that Haley understood autobiographies as "almost fiction". [38] In "The Color of His Eyes: Bruce Perry's Malcolm and Malcolm's Malcolm", Rampersad criticizes Perry's biography, Malcolm: The Life of a Man Who Changed Black America, and makes the general point that the writing of the Autobiography is part of the narrative of blackness in the 20th century and consequently should "not be held utterly beyond inquiry". [54] To Rampersad, the Autobiography is about psychology, ideology, a conversion narrative, and the myth-making process. [55] "Malcolm inscribed in it the terms of his understanding of the form even as the unstable, even treacherous form concealed and distorted particular aspects of his quest. But there is no Malcolm untouched by doubt or fiction. Malcolm's Malcolm is in itself a fabrication the 'truth' about him is impossible to know." [56] Rampersad suggests that since his 1965 assassination, Malcolm X has "become the desires of his admirers, who have reshaped memory, historical record and the autobiography according to their wishes, which is to say, according to their needs as they perceive them." [57] Further, Rampersad says, many admirers of Malcolm X perceive "accomplished and admirable" figures like Martin Luther King, Jr., and W. E. B. Du Bois inadequate to fully express black humanity as it struggles with oppression, "while Malcolm is seen as the apotheosis of black individual greatness . he is a perfect hero—his wisdom is surpassing, his courage definitive, his sacrifice messianic". [39] Rampersad suggests that devotees have helped shape the myth of Malcolm X.

To Eakin, a significant portion of the Autobiography involves Haley and Malcolm X shaping the fiction of the completed self. [59] Stone writes that Haley's description of the Autobiography's composition makes clear that this fiction is "especially misleading in the case of Malcolm X" both Haley and the Autobiography itself are "out of phase" with its subject's "life and identity". [42] Dyson writes, "[Louis] Lomax says that Malcolm became a 'lukewarm integrationist'. [Peter] Goldman suggests that Malcolm was 'improvising', that he embraced and discarded ideological options as he went along. [Albert] Cleage and [Oba] T'Shaka hold that he remained a revolutionary black nationalist. And [James Hal] Cone asserts that he became an internationalist with a humanist bent." [60] Marable writes that Malcolm X was a "committed internationalist" and "black nationalist" at the end of his life, not an "integrationist", noting, "what I find in my own research is greater continuity than discontinuity". [61]

Marable, in "Rediscovering Malcolm's Life: A Historian's Adventures in Living History", critically analyzes the collaboration that produced the Autobiography. Marable argues autobiographical "memoirs" are "inherently biased", representing the subject as he would appear with certain facts privileged, others deliberately omitted. Autobiographical narratives self-censor, reorder event chronology, and alter names. According to Marable, "nearly everyone writing about Malcolm X" has failed to critically and objectively analyze and research the subject properly. [62] Marable suggests that most historians have assumed that the Autobiography is veritable truth, devoid of any ideological influence or stylistic embellishment by Malcolm X or Haley. Further, Marable believes the "most talented revisionist of Malcolm X, was Malcolm X", [63] who actively fashioned and reinvented his public image and verbiage so as to increase favor with diverse groups of people in various situations. [64]

My life in particular never has stayed fixed in one position for very long. You have seen how throughout my life, I have often known unexpected drastic changes.

Haley writes that during the last months of Malcolm X's life "uncertainty and confusion" about his views were widespread in Harlem, his base of operations. [42] In an interview four days before his death Malcolm X said, "I'm man enough to tell you that I can't put my finger on exactly what my philosophy is now, but I'm flexible." [42] Malcolm X had not yet formulated a cohesive Black ideology at the time of his assassination [66] and, Dyson writes, was "experiencing a radical shift" in his core "personal and political understandings". [67]

Lost chapters from Malcolm X memoirs revealed

NEW YORK – Malcolm X unpublished thoughts on race, his life and his work were unveiled just a few feet from where an assassin’s bullet struck him down 45 years ago.

After decades of languishing in obscurity, portions of previously unseen chapters of The Autobiography of Malcolm X were revealed as part of a celebration commemorating the slain civil rights leader’s 85th birthday.

The event, held Wednesday night at the Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial & Education Center—the former Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan, was the first time that the three rediscovered chapters — “The Negro”, “End of Christianity” and “Twenty Million Muslims” — had been made public.

“Most sincerely, I want my life story to do as much good for humanity as it possibly can for both races in America,” Gregory Reed, a Michigan-based lawyer who now owns the lost chapters, read aloud from the lost portions of the book. “That is the reason for this interim chapter.”

Reed said in 1992 he purchased the original autobiography manuscript along with the three lost chapters from Alex Haley’s estate.

“I have been laboring for 18 years to get this work out,” Reed said, adding, “It is my mission, to make sure that we view him in the proper context.”

Reed wouldn’t say exactly how much he paid, but acknowledged that the price was more than $100,000.

He read chapter excerpts to the packed, yet enraptured crowd—some of whom stood during the three-hour event, hosted by Extra correspondent AJ Calloway and featuring spoken word poetry, music, prayer and stories about the impassioned orator and civil rights colossus.

“My life has been a mirror of what the black ghetto across America present as a community of despair,” Reed read from the chapters, “and a way of life that warps millions of Negro minds into social problems of broken homes and families and tragedies. The word ‘ghetto’ today often meets our eyes and ears, but not even those who live there can convey its actual horror to anyone who lives somewhere else. I can only hope that the reporting of my life will show what happened to me. And that one can transform his circumstances to better one’s self and their children.”

The lost chapters consist of essays Malcolm wrote for inclusion in the autobiography, Reed said. But Grove Press released the book in October 1965 without the additional text. The additional chapters are scheduled to be published, although it’s unclear when or whether they’ll be included in the original autobiography. By 1977, The Autobiography of Malcolm X had sold six million copies. The tome later spent 19 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list in 1992 around the time when Malcolm X, the Spike Lee movie, was released.

Malcolm X was assassinated at the Audubon on Feb. 21, 1965, and Wednesday would have been his 85th birthday. At the event were some of Malcolm X’s contemporaries, including his bodyguard, Sidney Sealy and members of the Organization for Afro-American Unity, which Malcolm X founded in 1964.

In chapter excerpts Reed read, Malcolm railed against strained race relations in America and wrote how he hoped his life and work would help solve the problem.

“The races in America have just declared war with each other,” Reed read. “The black man is accusing and bitter. The white man is guilty, alarmed and confused. In this turmoil for them both, I think that when my life is looked upon in the right way, there might be drawn from it something of value for humanity.”

In other excerpts, Reed read, Malcolm also reflected on his own life.

“Today, it is my mission to end the white man’s continuous enslavement and imprisonment of America’s black man’s mind,” Reed read. “When I was for a decade, another ghetto hustler, once called Detroit Red, talking out of the side of my mouth. Today, the New York Times reports me as the second most sought after speaker on university campuses, after Barry Goldwater.”

In another excerpt, Malcolm wrote, “Today, the FBI and other agencies watch me wherever I go. Once every word I uttered was slang, or foul and today I am interviewed and quizzed by panels or experts on the major television and radio programs.”

After receiving a standing ovation, Ilyasah al-Shabazz, Malcolm X’s daughter and the author of Growing Up X, spoke about her father’s life and his legacy.

“By the time of his thirties, my father would be revered as an international icon and respected around the world as a brilliant man of integrity,” Shabazz said, “who would not compromise, despite relentless surveillance, harassment and threats by our government and the misappropriation of his image.”

She said one of her biggest concerns was the way her family story—and particularly her father—had been distorted over the years.

“That’s right! That’s right! Make it plain!” one onlooker shouted.

William Alex Haley, Haley’s son, also spoke at the event, and said Malcolm X and Haley spent about three years meeting on Grove Street in Greenwich Village in order to complete the autobiography. He said he soon planned to release his father’s FBI file, where Malcolm is often mentioned.

“They were friends,” he said.

Haley said without the Autobiography of Malcolm X, Roots wouldn’t have happened. “His (Alex Haley) legacy is tied to Malcolm,” Haley said.

Many attendees said they were blown away by the insight the additional chapters offered on Malcolm X’s life.

Carlos Riquelme, 52, immigrated from Peru two years ago and said he studied Malcolm X while learning to speak English.

“I read a lot about him,” Riquelme said. “I think he was a grand leader. He worked for the rights of black people.”

Janice Page and her daughters, Typhanie, 14, and Ricquesha, 16 drove 12 and a half hours from Michigan to attend the commemoration celebration.

“I learned a lot from the few words that the attorney read,” Page said. “It’s excellent. An excellent piece of history.”

Typhanie said listening to the lost chapters taught her more about the slain leader’s life. “I think it was an amazing experience to know what he went through,” she said, adding, “He went from the streets to becoming something like a legend.”

  • Malcolm X used to slap white girls around to get back at the white race for the discrimination that his father went through, a new biography claims
  • The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X is by Pulitzer Prize- winning journalist Les Payne, who spent decades working on it until his death in 2018
  • Malcolm watched as racists firebombed his family home and grieved his father Earl's death, rumored to have been a murder by a group of white supremacists
  • His friend John Davis Jr said Malcolm took white girls’ money because they ‘can always go back to daddy to get some more’
  • The anecdotes, give a revealing insight into the early days of the man who later became one of the most controversial figures of the civil rights era
  • The book also claims an undercover New York Police Department detective saw a ‘dress rehearsal’ of Malcolm's execution a week before it happened
  • But when he reported it to his supervisors they reduced the number of officers stationed at the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan on February 21, 1965
  • It also claims Malcolm met with a leader of the Ku Klux Klan who had reached out to the Nation of Islam asking to work together

Published: 21:37 BST, 19 October 2020 | Updated: 08:34 BST, 20 October 2020

Malcolm X used to slap white girls around to get back at the white race for the discrimination that his father went through, a landmark biography of the civil rights firebrand claims.

In his teens a lawless Malcolm was ‘very, very cruel to white girls’ because of the treatment of his dad Earl Little.

Malcolm watched as racists firebombed his family home and grieved Earl's death aged six after he was run over by a streetcar in an incident rumored to have been a murder by a group of white supremacists.

Malcolm’s friend John Davis Jr said that he took white girls’ money because they ‘can always go back to daddy to get some more’ - but he never took a dime from a black girl.

The anecdotes, which Malcolm left out of his autobiography, are from new book The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X by author Les Payne, the late Pulitzer Prize- winning investigative journalist, who spent nearly 30 years working on it until his death in 2018.

It gives a revealing insight into the early days of the man who later became one of the most controversial figures of the civil rights era.

He was the face of the Nation of Islam and demanded change with his catchphrase ‘by any means necessary’ before leaving the group whose members assassinated him in 1965.

Malcolm X used to slap white girls around to get back at the white race for the discrimination that his father went through, a landmark biography of the civil rights firebrand claims.

In his teens a lawless Malcolm was ‘very, very cruel to white girls’ because of the treatment of his dad Earl Little. Pictured: Malcolm , at age 18, at the time of an arrest for larceny in 1944

The book claims an undercover New York Police Department detective saw a ‘dress rehearsal’ of the execution a week before it happened. But when he reported it to his supervisors they reduced the number of officers stationed at the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan. Pictured: Two policemen carry stretcher bearing Negro nationalist leader Malcolm X after he was downed by an assassin's bullets at a rally February 21st in 1965

The biography was finished by his daughter and his editors and is out on Tuesday on Liveright.

Malcolm was born in 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska, and his family moved to Lansing, Michigan, after being terrified by the Ku Klux Klan who visited their home and threatened Earl, an outspoken Baptist preacher.

The Littles were forthright in their advocating for equality and Earl founded the first branch of civil rights group the NAACP West of Mississippi.

They strongly believed in the teachings of Marcus Garvey, an early icon of black rights, and instilled in their children the idea that they should not be intimidated by whites.

But they suffered indignities and threats and locals burned one of their homes to the ground because they didn’t want a black family living there.

The anecdotes, which Malcolm left out of his autobiography, are from new book The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X by author Les Payne, the late Pulitzer Prize- winning investigative journalist, who spent nearly 30 years working on it until his death in 2018.

Payne writes: ‘It was upon this rock that the social perspective of young Malcolm was born.

‘The Garveyite struggle of his parents formed the foundation for what he would manage to fashion into his life’s work and legacy’.

The family was thrown into chaos when Malcolm was six when his father died after being run over by a streetcar.

Though the death was ruled an accident his mother Louise thought he could have been killed by a Ku Klux Klan style group and conspiracy theories ran rampant.

Louise eked out a living for her seven children and Malcolm was ‘deserted and doomed to wander the Earth in search of a substitute anchor’.

Discipline became a ‘thing of the past’ and Malcolm began to cut school and was eventually expelled.

His brother Wilfred used to send money back home to support them but Malcolm and his brother Philbert raced to the mailbox to steal it.

The cash could have paid for food but instead Malcolm played a ‘significant role in the family’s downward spiral’ economically - another anecdote he left out of his memoir.

Worse followed and under the stress his mother was ruled insane by a court and committed to an asylum.

Malcolm fell in with a group of street youths and began selling marijuana and stealing while sleeping in vacant cars.

Malcolm (pictured as a child) was born in 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska, and his family moved to Lansing, Michigan, after being terrified by the Ku Klux Klan who visited their home and threatened Earl, an outspoken Baptist preacher

The family was thrown into chaos when Malcolm was six when his father died after being run over by a streetcar. Though the death was ruled an accident his mother Louise thought he could have been killed by a Ku Klux Klan style group and conspiracy theories ran rampant. Worse followed and under the stress his mother was ruled insane by a court and committed to an asylum. Pictured: Malcolm's parents Louise and Earl Little

He got to know John Davis Jr, who was three years his senior and had just moved to Lansing from Mississippi.

Davis was struck with how Malcolm showed ‘none of the self-doubt of fears Negroes commonly displayed during encounters with members of a group dominating American society’.

But he could be reckless and when two cops stopped him and a friend for talking to white girls Malcolm stood up to them.

When one cop put his gun inches from his head Malcolm said: ‘Go ahead, pull the trigger, whitey’ - the officer backed down.

Les Payne, the late Pulitzer Prize- winning investigative journalist, spent nearly 30 years working on it until his death in 2018

Davis says in the book that he and Malcolm had one thing in common - they hated white people - but they still chased white girls.

Davis says: ‘He’d always say that black women don’t have anything they’re struggling too.

‘But he said that the white girls, even if she gives you all of her money, can always go back to daddy to get some more.

‘He was more or less trying to (hit) back after what (whites) had done to his dad. He took it out on the girls. Malcolm was mean to the white girls.

‘He would actually slap ‘em. He would take their money. He would curse. I never knew him to hit a black woman. He never took a dime from black women. But he was cruel, very, very cruel to white girls’.

At the age of 15 Malcolm moved to Boston to live with his half sister Ella and worked with pimps to fix up white men with black prostitutes through his gig as a shoeshine boy at fancy events.

Malcolm X, Militant Black Nationalist movement leader, carries his daughter, Ilyasah in 1964, as he enters car at John F. Kennedy International Airport, following his tour of the Middle East

American boxer Muhammad Ali with Malcolm X after Ali beat Sonny Liston at the world heavyweight championship

Malcolm began to call himself ‘East Lansing Red’ and got a job working on the railways where he visited New York for the first time and fell in love with the city.

He moved to Harlem and set about becoming what he called ‘one of the most depraved, parasitical hustlers among New York’s eight million people’.

His attitude toward women did not improve and became involved with a wealthy married woman called Beatrice Bazarian, a relationship Payne calls ‘largely exploitative’.

Malcolm would beat her and claim that it was something that ‘women need, in fact want’, adding: ’When they are not exploited, they exploit the man’

After carrying out a string of burglaries Malcolm’s luck ran out and he was jailed for eight to 10 years for burglary at the age of just 20 years.

But life on the inside changed him and Malcom found Islam, reeducated himself and sharpened his debating skills on the prison debate team.

Payne writes that Malcolm felt that ‘the very enormity of my previous life’s guilty prepared me to accept the truth’.

He was introduced to the Nation of Islam through his brothers who knew its leader Elijah Muhammad, who was based in Chicago.

The black nationalist group believed that white people are the ‘devil’ and that black people are inherently superior.

The Southern Poverty Law Center calls The Nation of Islam a ‘hate group’ due to its stance on race and its anti-Jewish and homophobic views.

Malcolm was paroled in August 1952 and got a job as salesman in Detroit store but quickly rose up the ranks in the Nation of Islam thanks to his energetic organizing which helped expand its network of temples and rake in vast sums of money.

During the 1950s and 1960s Malcolm channeled the rage of blacks at Jim Crow restrictions on their lives into demands for reform.

After carrying out a string of burglaries Malcolm’s luck ran out and he was jailed for eight to 10 years for burglary at the age of just 20 years. But life on the inside changed him and Malcom found Islam, reeducated himself and sharpened his debating skills on the prison debate team

Unlike Martin Luther King’s advocacy for non violence, Malcolm said that blacks had to take equality ‘by any means necessary’ which chimed with the Black Panthers.

When John F Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 Malcolm said it was ‘chickens coming home to roost’ and that he felt ‘glad’.

An appearance in a documentary called The Hate that Hate Produce earned Malcolm national prominence and he was soon seen as No. 2 in the organization after Muhammad.

In 1961 Muhammad asked Malcolm to attend a meeting with a leader of the Ku Klux Klan who had reached out to the Nation of Islam asking to work together.

It led to the most bizarre passage of the book and arguably the strangest moment of Malcolm’s life.

The meeting took place in Atlanta and a Klansman identified as WS Fellows told Malcolm that they both appeared to want segregation.

As Malcolm talked about helping black people to buy land and that he wanted a ‘separation of the races’, Fellows said: ‘Call it whatever you like. As long as you stay over there and you're glad to be black, good’.

As Payne describes it, Malcolm had to keep himself in check from ridiculing Fellows but he couldn’t restrain himself entirely.

At one point Malcolm said: ‘What do you mean, we can’t join the Klan?’

Fellows replied: ‘We’ll make y’all like a partner’.

Malcolm replied in a deadpan voice: ‘Are you going to get us some robes?’ referring to the white garments worn by Klansmen.

Fellows said: ‘Well no, we can’t let no n***** wear a white robe’. After considering his options for a moment, he said: ‘I’ll tell you what, Malcolm, we can get y’all some purple robes’.

In 1961 Muhammad asked Malcolm to attend a meeting with a leader of the Ku Klux Klan who had reached out to the Nation of Islam asking to work together. It led to the most bizarre passage of the book and arguably the strangest moment of Malcolm’s life. The meeting took place in Atlanta and a Klansman identified as WS Fellows told Malcolm that they both appeared to want segregation. Pictured: A Klu Klux Klan celebration in 1941

Malcolm replied: ‘Oh, no, no, no. We want white robes. If we are going to be partners in this thing then give us a white robe like what you have’

They eventually settled on purple robes as a compromise.

Later on during the two hour meeting Fellows asked Malcolm to reveal details about a visit by King so they could attack him.

Malcolm refused and said he would not be involved in ‘hurting our own kind’

Fellows replied: ‘You don’t have to kill him. We’ll take care of the violence’

The meeting would mark the start of Malcolm’s disillusionment with the Nation of Islam because he thought that white supremacists were the enemy.

Muhammad’s insistence on further talks - and even invited the head of the American Nazi Party to a Nation of Islam conference - triggered a ‘primal revulsion’ in Malcolm.

The final straw was when Malcolm learned that Muhammad had fathered children by several of his young secretaries, a sign he was not living by the principles he espoused.

Malcolm left the Nation of Islam in 1964 and toured the world, giving speeches in the UK, France and Canada.

He spent months in Africa trying to mobilize Africans against America which he saw as a bastion of Muslim oppression.

But when he returned to the US the Nation of Islam harassed him with Muhammad saying he should be ‘made to go away’.

There were threatening episodes like a car tailing Malcolm at high speeds and gunmen turning up at his speeches.

A week before his death arsonists threw molotov cocktails into his family home in New York, forcing him to evacuate with his pregnant wife and four daughters.

On February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated in New York while giving a speech at the Audubon Ballroom

Among those who were guarding Malcolm that night was Gene Roberts, an undercover NYPD detective working as a security guard. A week before Malcolm had been giving a speech at the same venue, Roberts had seen a lone man walk down the aisle as if heading for the stage

On February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated in New York while giving a speech at the Audubon Ballroom.

Three Nation of Islam members were charged with the murder and given indeterminate life sentences, although questions remain to this day as to who was behind the murder.

Among those who were guarding Malcolm that night was Gene Roberts, an undercover NYPD detective working as a security guard.

A week before Malcolm had been giving a speech at the same venue, Roberts had seen a lone man walk down the aisle as if heading for the stage.

At the same time there was some heckling off to one side and the disturbance caused the guards on the rostrum to look over at him.

Roberts checked out the man who had walked down the aisle and figured he was a Muslim thanks to his bow tie.

Later when he called his bosses at the police department he said: ‘I just think I saw a dress rehearsal for this man’s assassination. I told them I think it’s going to go down’.

They did nothing, a missed opportunity that could have saved Malcolm's life.

Tears later the ‘rehearsal’ still sends shivers down Roberts’ spine.

But what horrified him more was that after he made the call the police sharply reduced the uniformed presence outside the ballroom rather than bolstering it.

Roberts would be further troubled by the ‘inordinately long’ time it took his colleagues at the precinct to respond to the emergency call to take Malcolm to hospital after he had been shot.

Sinners and Strivers

The Autobiography of Malcolm X is a collaboration between Malcolm X himself and Alex Haley. The book details his entire life and is easily one of the most powerful things I have ever read. The first thing you have to know is that Malcolm X was an ever changing and dynamic character. Any criticism you read of the man might be true depending on what stage of his life you are looking at. This seems pretty unextraordinairy, you could say that about anyone. The difference between Malcolm X's auto biography though, is how many times he went through a complete overhaul of his identity. He changes his names 3 times alone, each reflecting a new life, a new ideology, and a new kind of leader.

Malcolm X's most consistent quality is his "fire". It really defined him as a leader of the struggle, probably more so than his often confused ideology. This fire manifests itself in a variety of ways that make Malcolm so facisinating. Sometimes it is aimed at the collective action of the white man in the form of pure, unabashed truth telling. Despite the fact that he was never formally educated, his mastery of knowledge over the history of his people can indict even the most progressive whites of his time or any. No one is safe. He takes on the given racist institutions like prisons or the government, but he also takes down education and the media. He went after them in ways the more peaceful leaders did not. Every word is deliberate, every message is clear. It is almost hard to describe how blunt and truthful this man could be, the conviction he gave to his words made everything he said hammer home. No other word but "powerful" can convey this mans presence, even his literary one.

For the same reasons it was the most powerful book I ever read, it was also the most challenging. It challenged everything I previously thought about race and everything that ever taught me about it. The power behind Malcolm's accusations that welfare tore up his family or that the integrated school systems were used to ensure the demise of his education, had me seriously questioning these systems. Obviously I believe in integration and government assistance to the poor still, but this is why reading Malcolm was so challenging. He shook the foundation of what I know to be true. One line captures this perfectly for me. Alex Haley is telling Malcolm that whatever he says, the white publishers are contractually obligated to publish. X says he doesn't trust the white man, Haley assures him he can, and Malcolm responds: "You trust them and I don't. You learned about him in schools where he taught what he wanted you to know about him and I learned about him locked in the ghetto streets and in prisons - I will tell you about trust". This had me thinking about how in public school I never learned about Malcolm X, or Angela Davis, or Stokely Carmichael or any movement that was outside the most famous, non violent, civil rights movements. I did learn about Christopher Columbus' heroic discovery of America, our heroic founding fathers, our historic sense of justice as a nation. Of course I knew all these things were just pretty pictures of our past that were painted to hide the real ugliness of it. What I never really suspected was that other movements and conditions were left out by design, in order to write off their importance, their reality, or even their existence. The most challenging and powerful part of this book was reading Malcolm lay these truths out in front of me and making me aware of how little I know about my own education.

But despite its power and challenge, there are some serious flaws in Malcolm, his ideology, and his book. Malcolm I believe was deeply sexist, which is a hard thing to admit, but ultimately true. It is hard to admit because he has so many speeches that really empower African American women, but he expresses too many times his belief in their fundamental weaknesses and toxicity to men. This duality made me uncomfortable and didn't seem all that useful to the narrative. I'll grant that it was at least honest. I've also mentioned before that his ideology was confused, but people often cite how his discovery of true Islam (away from the Elijah Muhammad Islam of Black America) and his pilgrimage to Mecca helped change his personal philosophy into one of brotherhood. Yet I find his understanding of Islam to be surprisingly flat. He points out that Muslims don't often care about color, that white muslims and black muslims work together sincerely, this leads him to believe that Islam is the only true religion of brotherhood and he doesn't hesitate to tell this to everyone. While I think he is right about the muslim community's regard toward race, he seems to completely ignore the history of violence within the religion as he uses it to assail christianity. This shows an unprecedented ignorance of history - it is fairly disappointing to see. Finally, the book glorifies his criminal past far too much. In its first chapter and a half, we are met with vivid and powerful memories of racism unlike anything I've ever read. Yet when Malcolm falls into the life of crime, it reads like a crime novel drug runs, shoot outs, showdowns, the works. As destitute as he wants you to believe it was, it is hard to believe it when he treats his criminal self as a hero of the underworld. The re-birth into Islam then seemed insincere and caricatured. It made his transition away from this phase all too unbelievable. It set kind of an off pace for the rest of the book.

Overall though, reading the autobiography of Malcolm X is worth it. It is bound to inspire and challenge, but it is not guaranteed you will like it. After reading this book I think it is upsetting to hear Malcolm's constant comparison to Martin Luther King Jr. It is true they often criticized one another, but Malcolm was the fire under America's ass - his goals were not the same. This devotion to the struggle of his people, his willingness to burn himself to extinction in order to incite change. or else, makes for a very riveting and mind altering read. This book offers you something very deep I think whether you walk away with it like Spike Lee did, or you walk away from it - you will not be the same after you've seen it.

Watch the video: Malcolm Xs Legendary Speech: The Ballot or the Bullet annotations and subtitles