The Autobiography of Malcolm X


Book title: The autobiography of Malcolm X

Author:   Alex Haley and Malcolm X

Published by: Ballantine Books

Publication year: 1964


I heard people speak of someone by the name Malcolm X. I’ve heard of someone who never schooled beyond the eighth grade but drilled on the street of Harlem and also of someone who attended the University of Charlestown Prison. I finally was privileged to meet him after several years of anticipation, yes on the pages of this good read.

On the account of this autobiographical narrative, Malcolm’s psychological approach to getting one’s request granted in life is sped up through making some noise. I would open my mouth and let the whole world know about it… I learned early that crying out in protest could accomplish things [pg8]. And this he learnt during his childhood. This then affirms the African proverb which says, (paraphrased) what will become of a man can easily be identified during his formative years. The negroes in the early 50s have something in common. Most were poor, talented, maltreated, and hostile (even towards each other) and finds solace in religion. Even while Malcolm was been taken to live with the Gohannas, his weak mother still remembers to inform the state man that Malcolm shouldn’t be fed with pig [pg19].

The analysis of any story with a strong theme of Afro-American activism and in this case, black Americans in a black populated city like Harlem wouldn’t be complete without stating the poor mindset most black Americans had nurtured since time immemorial. You do odd jobs, get rich through tips, gamble and when you had your hit, you’ve got to buy your friends drinks and steaks, buy a Cadillac and in a brief squander those returns on gambling without any thought of investment. Most of the time it happens as a result of wanting to show off one’s spending habit, in a quest to meet up with the status quo. Malcolm did well by tackling this demeaning mindset when he joined the Nation of Islam.


How ridiculous I was! Stupid enough to stand… (Pg 54)

Malcolm X is the man with a ‘glass’ heart. His version of the Negro suffering was told in this biographical account of his without ‘padding’ things up. Even when he seems to be betraying the race to which he belongs, he says it in clearer terms.  While Reginald plots out Malcolm’s path into becoming a Muslim, his presumptions about the white folks will just be unrealistic as anything. Speaking about the anti-white policy and loss of identity syndrome which works hand in hand with the white’s hatred for the negroes, one might have just thought that is his best move towards working out the conversion of his anti-Christian brother. Malcolm wouldn’t listen to anyone order than Reginald, but even at that, he wouldn’t swallow all he’s saying hook line and sinker. He still remembers some good white buddies. Several letters Malcolm got while he was in the prison hastened him to accept the Islamic religion. The fact that Elijah Muhammad in a way blast opens the truth about the black race, also in a way affirms Malcolm’s previous thought of his race. It also affirms James Brown pride in his colour when he sang in 1968 at Los Angles, ‘I am black and proud’ but in a way discouraged Michael Jackson’s several surgeries which defeated the real him. While some of what Elijah Muhammad’s studied might be true, there is still no proof up till this very day of this review that the white man ever brainwashed Negroes to accept Christianity on any oral or documented account. This makes Elijah Muhammad’s theory not substantial. Arguably, Christianity on the African continent only met with some taste of racial oppression, black’s loss of identity, when slavery also was at its peak and therefore, just in correlation with that which has been said above, the black will always want to find solace in something. And then Christianity sets in for the black majority.

Malcolm seems to have learnt so many things even while he was in prison [Pg 171], a total opposite to some parent’s thought that it is only in the formal school where anyone could be knowledgeable about anything. Though I will not in any way promote being a convict or ex-con, but there was more concentration for greater absorption of knowledge when he was isolated from distractions.

The ‘X’ substituting Malcolm’s surname became a question on the mind of the entire public, here is it. The ‘X’ substituting Malcolm’s surname came up as a result of his dislike to bear the white man’s slave name. Bearing Little is still more like him disappointing the race to which he belongs, so he had better follow Elijah Muhammad’s thought about getting the X in place of his surname after which Allah will replace it with another new name. Malcolm X, Lloyd X, Ulysses X all followed this same theory propounded by Elijah Muhammad.

[Pg 221] No Muslim who followed Elijah Muhammad could dance, gamble, date, attend movies or sport, or take long vacations from work…. This sounds controversial and won’t make an average American or African embrace Nations of Islam or the religion itself. Elijah Muhammad is making Islam so tough like military operations. I personally wonder what will become of the Muslim sisters and brothers if they can’t date, attend movies do sport or even take long vacations. These majorly are what give people joy and relaxation amidst several days of hustle and struggle. Elijah Muhammad might have been talking about a total concentration of the works of Allah but may not get the approval of the public where the aforementioned is concern. I’d even thought if all this still remains in this present day Islamic practice (maybe someone will clarify this for my understanding). Malcolm really grew into a good salesman and orator. His knowledge of persuasion and conviction infused into his teachings makes the public want to hear more of him. Often ending his teachings with the phrase “Who among you wish to follow The Honorable Elijah Muhammad” is such good punch line often used in churches where the preacher makes an altar call of commitment to salvation. Astonishing, this also make of him a good salesman, who is always concerned not only with the persuasive part of his talk but the commitment of his listeners.

Malcolm X was really hurt when news of Elijah Muhammad adultery flung open to the general public. And on seeing this myself, I was thrown aback, wondering how this happened. I’ve been reading about disciples being loyal to their lords, but the case of Malcolm X to Elijah Muhammad seems to be highly exceptional, even when Elijah Muhammad destroyed him at his back. To crown my awe at Malcolm’s dedication to the nation of Islam, I seem to be marvelled again when Malcolm and Wallace Muhammad had to objectively help Elijah Muhammad out of the mess he was, here making references to the bible. It now seems to be the final resort from where they sort for a solution to cleanse Elijah’s mess. And of course, the bible proffered the solution they both searched for. The question now stirs up in me, who else would have done it (help Elijah Muhammad out of his mess) better if not Malcolm X, the castigated faithful of Elijah Muhammad? You see, I begin to think if blacks regardless of their ethnicity or religious affiliation could just unite together, things will get better than it is now. He was faithful to the gallows even when he saw it staring at him.

Not trying to be a fanatic here, but after reading about some biblical characters, I seem not to agree with Elijah Muhammad’s statement with Malcolm X where he was comparing himself with some biblical characters like David, Noah and Lot [Pg 299]. What is he trying to achieve? I seem not to understand. Can anyone provide help?

Towards the end of this book, Malcolm was able to ascertain some crucial understandings about the racial prejudice in America. He feels that the America white man is not a racist but it is the American political economic and social atmosphere that automatically nourishes a racist psychology in the white man. He thinks the white man is not inherently evil but the America’s racist society influences him to act evilly which was more confirmed when he had contact with Islamic friends from his trip to the Holy land of Mecca.

The autobiography of Malcolm X is an honest unleashing of a die-hard patriotic American who met with death but disdain it in a bid to secure a level playing ground for his black countryman. Like Truman Nelson of THE NATION said, “A great book. It’s dead level honesty, its passion, its exalted purpose will make it stand as a monument to the most painful truth.”


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