Autobiography of Malcolm X as Told by Alex Haley

Autobiography of Malcolm X as Told by Alex Haley

Malcolm X was born as Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska.  Throughout his adult life, he was an outspoken minister and spokesman of the Nation of Islam and an advocate for giving equal rights to African Americans, a mission that led to his assassination on February 21, 1965.  Having experienced violence and discrimination, he turned into a hardened young man engaged in illegal trade and even armed robberies before getting converted into a follower of the Nation of Islam.  The “Autobiography of Malcolm X” traces the life story of the famous Black American Muslim leader from Alex Haley’s point of view.  It took Haley a long period of time to completely gain the trust of Malcolm X, who was always cautious with all reporters.  The autobiography is divided into nineteen chapters and an epilogue.  The epilogue focuses on the last two years of Malcolm X’s life and how it was filled with tension and violence as death threats poured into his door, which ultimately ended in death for the notorious equal rights’ leader. 

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In his early life, Malcolm’s family lived in an environment of racial discrimination and

violence, from the Midwest to Michigan.  Racists murdered his father, while his mother was forced into a mental asylum.  Moving to Boston with his half-sister, Malcolm grew into a young man and became involved with drugs, gambling, brothels, and armed robberies.  These criminal activities soon landed him in jail.  His time in prison was not wasted for he soon became a convert of the Nation of Islam.  He prayed, studied, joined the prison debating team, and stopped using drugs.

After his release from prison on parole, Malcolm became very active in the Nation of Islam’s Detroit branch.  He then dropped and changed his last name to X, using this letter to take the place of his African ancestors’ unknown name.  His rapid rise from the ranks among the group’s leaders made him into the first ever national minister.  He was a charismatic leader, giving fiery rhetorics calling for unity among the country’s African Americans.  Malcolm’s fame spread throughout the nation in his quest for equality between blacks and whites.  As Malcolm rose in fame and influence, leaders of the Nation of Islam, including Elijah Muhammad, soon resented and feared him.  Their jealousy caused the leaders to suspend Malcolm from their organization despite his loyalty to their cause.  When he left the Nation of Islam, Malcolm founded his own organization, the Muslim Mosque, Inc., which advocates a version of Islam contrary to that of his former organization’s teachings.

Before he was booted out of the Nation of Islam, Malcolm met Haley and soon agreed to have his biography written by the reporter.  The biography was assembled not only through interviews but also by using scribbles that Malcolm wrote while talking to Haley.  The actual work on the book happened shortly before Malcolm and Elijah Muhammad had a falling out.  The scribblings presented to Haley the Black leader’s private thoughts and from them emerge an open-minded intellectual who did not resent change and was sincere in his quest to resolve racial problems.

The racial discrimination, violence and economic repression suffered by African Americans from the hands of misguided Whites have resulted into the rise of an intellectual, Black minister who fought and advocated for unity among the oppressed to fight and change a flawed system.  Malcolm X’s own sufferings had ultimately led him to fight to end the oppression of the Black communities.  His influence and advocacy threatened and angered people; not only the whites but also his very own compatriots in the Nation of Islam.  Malcolm met his death at forty during a time when the nation was unprepared for a serious changes.

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