The Autobiography of Malcolm X- Malcolm X


“I’ve had enough of someone else’s propaganda. I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” – Malcolm X

In High School my history syllabus covered just a few pages on African-American civil rights heroes. The majority of those pages were on Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X was barely mentioned. After reading this book I was perplexed! I wonder why Malcolm X hasn’t been given the same respect as Dr. King; he contributed so much to the civil rights movement as well, yet my knowledge on this man was very minimal.

How did Malcolm Little become Malcolm X aka El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz? This is what this book is all about. His transformation was remarkable especially as he spent time in foster homes and was a hustler in Detroit. He lived in an America where smart black kids were discouraged from being lawyers etc, and thus dropped out of school at young ages. It made me think for the umpteenth time just how can society malign and vilify black people, especially black men, when society itself is responsible for restricting them in the first place?

Among the many things I admired about Malcolm X was his thirst for knowledge. He is a great advertisement for autodidactism and how effective and transformative self-education can be:

“I have often reflected upon the new vistas that reading opened to me. I knew right there, in prison, that reading had changed forever the course of my life. As I see it today, the ability to read awoke inside me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive.”

It was hard for me to read this book and not compare Malcolm X’s philosophy to Dr. King’s. I always thought I would adhere more closely to Dr. King’s peaceful, nonviolence philosophy, but after reading this book I do agree with Malcolm X’s ideology as well. Not that I am advocating violence, but radicalness and action is sometimes needed, as are anger and indignation. As Malcolm X said, ““So early in life, I learned that if you want something, you had better make some noise.” I feel there is so much to learn from both men so I won’t say I prefer one doctrine over another. At the same time I wonder, how can people not become militant and revolutionary after having experienced so much cruelty and discrimination?

Another thing I found interesting in this autobiography was Malcolm X’s religious transformation; from having been raised Christian, to entering the Nation of Islam (NOI), he finally found his spiritual home in “mainstream” Islam. His depiction of his trip to Mecca in particular was very enlightening and a turning point in his life. His adoration of Elijah Muhammad, the founder of the NOI, was quite sad, especially as Muhammad seems to have been a bit of a weirdo. Muhammad said something along the lines of too-short women marrying tall men and vice versa is ridiculous. Also, he said that a man should ideally marry a woman half his age plus 7 years.

Malcolm is unapologetic about his views in this book and that’s what I love best about this autobiography. His writing is very candid and so informative. This is an important book for all to read. The prevalence of eurocentrism in the world is astounding and I don’t think we really realize just how established it is. Malcolm X dissected the race problem so well, I felt inspired.

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14 thoughts on “The Autobiography of Malcolm X- Malcolm X

  1. I have almost all of Malcolm x’s recorded sermons and speeches (same applies with Dr. King).

    I think it is rather fascinating how we all want the same thing out of life, but the path we chose often divides us thoroughly.

    **

    If we look at South Africa, non-violence prevailed with the leadership of Nelson Mandela. But many people are starting to feel like justice was not served. Hence people demand things (rather than work or negotiate).

    In Egypt however, radicalism forces change to happen. But others are concerned that the nation is no longer tolerant and in some cases it demotes to stability and peace by pursing it radically.

    Tanks for the posts…

    1. Thanks so much for commenting! You gave me a lot of food for thought, especially when you said this: “I think it is rather fascinating how we all want the same thing out of life, but the path we chose often divides us thoroughly.”

      I completely agree with what you said about Egypt vs. South Africa. I’ve visited South Africa several times and though the moniker “Rainbow Nation” sounds nice, I can’t help but think that racial integration isn’t as perfect as it’s made out to be. I think in 2013 revolutionary and activist tactics are needed.

  2. Certain people love to paint Malcolm X as pro-violence, which is probably why he got less attention in classrooms. That certainly happened at my school, too, even though I had pretty progressive teachers. It’s interesting, because we were taught about Malcolm X as the reverse to King (we were taught all about King, and then got basically, “Malcolm X was just the opposite. The end.”).

    So I was amazed and enthralled when I finally read this autobiography in my junior or senior year of high school.

    Another book about Malcolm that is fantastic is Manning Marable’s biography. I learned so much more from that book, too.

    1. I think I did have a relatively “violent” image of Malcolm X. It goes to show how important it is to do one’s own research and not follow other people’s opinions blindly. And I guess it makes sense that those in charge wouldn’t want a society that is conscious and activist in nature.

      I’m going to look out for the Marable book, I think Vern also recommended it to me. Must be great if you both like it:)

  3. In my heart I do not believe in violence as a means to an end. Unfortunately, the continuation of police states takes full advantage of that belief. History is full of people who profit from war, and civil war is no different. We live in various degrees of policing, and that seems to be increasing.

    It seems you are saying that peace in some regions is being “oversold”. I’d agree with that; mass media is not a good source of truth, and that’s not just an opinion.

    You’re writing is inspiring and passionate, which makes it refreshing.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Lawrence! I would say I’m definitely a pacifist. I don’t believe in physical violence either because I think that at that point nobody is listening or acting rationally. I believe in activism, saying what one means without sugar-coating things, being strong enough to stick to one’s principles etc. You would think that as far as us humans have come, we would be able to solve problems without resorting to violence, right? 🙂

      And thank you for the compliment! I read a lot of books, many more than I review, but I normally just review the ones I have a lot to say about!

  4. You’re welcome. I don’t think we’ve come so far in many ways. One of the those ancient Greek philosophers, I can never remember which one, made the logical argument that matters of right and wrong can never be rectified with the inclusion of numbers. The gap between rich and poor is largely numbers-related, as is the predominant western religion.

    Call us rational or not, but one could certainly argue that this gap is very much an aggression, but not an act, rather an entire system – we’re so well-trained to not notice the violence of it.

    That sounds more negative than intended, but then as you say, no sugar-coating. I say that as I’m munching on some honey-roasted peanuts!

    Finally, why did you mention book reviews?

    1. In a way our idea of how far we’ve come is an illusion because we’ve regressed in so many areas. I think of so-called “primitive people” who live harmoniously, eat healthy food, breathe fresh, clean air, have institutions to help all those who need help and I think isn’t that way better than what we currently have?

      I completely agree with what you wrote. I hope those peanuts were good!

      I mentioned book reviews because that’s what I mainly write on this blog (currently anyway).

  5. I haven’t read any books of or by Malcolm X, I’ve only seen the film. I was a kid (in Canada) and I vaguely remember a little about seeing him on television, on the news. The movement was certainly portrayed as violent. It was kind of a blur back then. I was six when the first Kennedy was shot, and remember that, and then the other one, and Martin Luther King. There was a lot of sadness and confusion.

    Out of curiosity, do you know of anyone today who shows the kind of leadership that Malcolm X showed? Does he mention much of Muhammad Ali in the book? He was pretty heroic by refusing the draft on religious grounds . . . funny how every Christian really has that option, but so few take it . . . I think that’s why his whole statement was squelched, and the issue never really raised. That I remember.

    Do you accept YouTube links in your blog comments? Not that long ago I watched a debate between Malcolm X and Dr. King. It was really fascinating – they really get into their different outlooks. If you want, I can find it (hopefully) and post it in my next comment.

    In terms of culture and such, I really address this in one of my blog posts, which also includes some wonderful music – the post is worth seeing for the music alone, and it’s called “Being Cool in the Media” – I never know if it’s cool to post links to one’s own blog. It should be!

    As for the peanuts, you really don’t know me well . . . if you did then you’d know to speak of those peanuts in the present tense until they are all gone . . . the jar has hardly been opened! 🙂

    1. Yes, I think he was wrongly painted as a dangerous man. It reminds me of how Nelson Mandela was vilified by many, accused of terrorism etc.

      Unfortunately I cannot think of anyone these days who shows the same leadership and qualities as Dr. King and Malcolm X. It’s actually a question I’ve been pondering for a while, I wonder why that is? It’s probably for a number of reasons.

      I will definitely have a look at your blog. And the youtube links would be greatly appreciated, thanks!

  6. Yes, the media certainly knows how to “paint”! 🙂

    Here is the link, though it really isn’t a head-to-head debate. It is an edited series of statements, but certainly comes together like a debate . . . the only spoiler is a strange, dubbed-in, comment about Beyonce at the end: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4PqLKWuwyU

    You say you have lots of questions, as do I. It seems I wonder about stuff in my own unique way. This is not meant as a knock against Mandela or Malcolm X, but I do wonder how a person can be in prison for 25 years, and then come out with powerful leadership skills . . . it would seem the Harvard School of Business might learn something from this, in terms of developing true leadership skills . . . really makes you wonder!

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