“People don’t realize how a man’s whole life can be changed by one book.” – Malcolm X

The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley


     I decided to finally pick up and read the book every individual, especially those residing in America and are black should read. Many are discouraged because it is a lot of rigorous reading, but I can confidently say it provides the reader with a lot after its completion. The book, The Autobiography of Malcolm X As Told To Alex Haley provided me with background information and knowledge on a man I greatly respect, history of life in the past, motivation, and self-empowerment.


     Immediately from the book’s completion I saw within Malcolm X that with hard work, knowledge, and persistence, you can change, your mindset can change, you can change people, and achieve or make strides to achieving what you want. I give an extremely watered-down version of the context within the text with the intent to not spoil as much or make a summary. It’s just to provide background information. Anyhow, I encourage everyone interested in reading it to do so, it has provided all types of different people something.


     Malcolm X entered this world with innate knowledge and natural born leadership which couldn’t be honed due to immediate factors like his low socioeconomic state of living, and most importantly, the racist world around him. He grew up in a household with seven other bright siblings and two hard working parents whose light became dim as a result of this racist world as well. He saw firsthand activism and leadership within his father who was an activist and preacher who believed in the same teachings Marcus Garvey stressed. He also saw firsthand leadership, care, nurture, and grit within his mother who would soon have to play both parental roles when Malcolm’s father was killed by the KKK when he was only six years old. Unfortunately, however, she couldn’t uphold her family’s necessities, combat the environment around her, and resist the pressure state Welfare applied upon her which resulted in Malcolm and some of his siblings being separated from one another while his mother was put into a mental hospital. 


     When Malcolm got separated from his family, he primarily lived with a friend, but quickly got placed into a new school with board because of negative antics at his prior school. At his new school, which was primarily white, he was able to hone in on his innate knowledge, thirst for learning, and leadership, however he wasn’t doing it for himself. He had been brainwashed integrating and assimilating into this white institution, residence, and overall space that he lost realization of why he was putting in this immeasurable effort in the first place. It wasn’t until his teacher told him he wouldn’t be able to be a lawyer and instead should pursue something like carpentry which gave Malcolm the drive to disassociate from this white setting. Even though he was at the top of his class, was elected class president, and on good standing with everyone in this white space, he still was seen as nothing because he was black.


     After diligently leaving this virulent white space, Malcolm headed for Boston and later New York City, where he was now able to find and connect to people within his culture and race who he could respect, yet these people would have a negative impact upon him. These people enabled Malcolm to use innate talents in poor ways and develop a new form of self-degradation that differed from the one which occupied him prior in that white space of Michigan.  He started to do things in pursuit to fit an image which consisted of things like presenting his hair or appearance a certain way that made it look more “white” like, not valuing members of his community and treating them poorly, turning into an addict of many substances, and developing negative forms of hustling. Malcolm’s street life on the other hand didn’t last forever as he ended up in Charlestown State Prison due to being caught with stolen jewelry. 


     It wasn’t until Malcolm went to prison that he finally was able to hone in on his innate abilities. One of the biggest backings in this was his family. He took correspondence courses to improve his penmanship and broaden his overall scope of knowledge because his family encouraged him to do so. He started reading whatever he could get his hands on as a result of completing these courses and soon joined the prison debate team. He stopped smoking and eating pork because his family got him acquainted with Islam. Then soon after, he was able to reach out to a prominent religious leader of “The Nation of Islam,” being Elijah Muhammad who took Malcolm under his wing, teaching him, later persuading him to be a preacher, and becoming his right-hand man. 


     Malcolm’s time with the Nation of Islam after being released from prison turned his life around. He was able to become a minister, spread and seek truth, attain more knowledge, travel to all types of places, build safe havens for black people, attend institutions or entertainment settings as a guest speaker, become an activist, and have a family of his own. Malcolm started to be so well known, intelligent, well-spoken, and sought out, that envy and jealousy came at his forefront from members of this Islamic group, including Elijah Muhammad himself.


     Malcolm was soon disbanded from the Nation of Islam due to ill-advised comments made about the JFK assassination, but in truth it was the overall fear of Malcolm X becoming bigger than everyone else and the Nation of Islam itself. It left him feeling like a man without a home and empty inside, but it allowed him to further grow. Malcolm now went where he pleased to often speak or talk, thought the way he chose, made his own organization and group he had full control of, and took on traditional Islam and became a true Muslim taking a pilgrimage to Mecca. As hard as he tried, no longer spreading hate, and allowing people to show their true intentions instead of formulating them prior, putting his activism and human rights movement before anything else in life, communicating with people all over the world to solve issues, and continuing to change for the better, he still had a target on his back. People wanted him dead; people didn’t allow him to change by focusing on what he said in the past, and people didn’t want equality. Soon Malcolm X would pass away at a public speaking by multiple gunmen in front of many supporters, reporters, friends, and family. 


     The book took me on a rollercoaster of emotions and feelings because it felt like I was in it the whole time. I was there feeling empathetic for Malcolm when his father got killed by the KKK and he had to be split from his parents due to his mother spiraling as a result. I felt proud when Malcolm put his foot down and decided that integrating and assimilating wasn’t something he or anyone should do to live. I was compassionate and grew tolerant of him falling to the streets, and not being able to use his mind better. I became curious to see how life would be for him in prison and the man he would be once he got out. I acknowledged and understood his acceptance with the “Nation of Islam” and the ways he went about in this group. I became downhearted once he was disbanded from the Nation of Islam, but quickly was in high spirits once he got back on his feet. Lastly, I became very sorrowful and confused about his passing. This man who had this hard life, breaking through walls of adversity, finally was able to get on the right track and accomplish what he sought out to do, the way he wanted to do it. He had so much more to learn and to do, and even though he has inspired, motivated, and moved many people, him not fulfilling his passions and dreams himself didn’t sit right with me coming to the conclusion of this book. Nevertheless, no matter who you are, what you look like, or what you believe in, please pick up this book, there’s so much to be gained from it.

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