Autobiography of Malcolm X

Chapter One. Nightmare

The first chapter depicts the case that happened before the birth of the protagonist. His family lived in Omaha, Nebraska, and it became a victim of Ku Klux Klan terror. Once, furious Ku Klux Klan members came to their house searching for Malcolm`s father to punish him for his work for Marcus Garvey`s Universal Negro Improvement Association (U.N.I.A.) which supported the idea of the Blacks` returning back to Africa. Those people broke the windows in a house and frightened the family. Earl Little was absent and the mother - Louise Little, who was pregnant with Malcolm spoke with the attackers. Malcolm X depicted her as a fair-skinned and wise woman, a native of Grenada. Malcolm says, “She had a pretty good education” (Haley, 1965). Being white, she could find a good work in a town, but she decided to stay home and look for the children. In Lansing, Michigan the family experienced another attack – white supremacist group burned down their house. These accidents taught a little Malcolm a very useful lesson about being black-skinned in America – shining shoes or waiting tables was much more successful occupation rather than having a good and well-paid profession. Indeed, the future leader understood that it will be very difficult to fight poverty and unemployment of Blacks. 

When Malcolm was only six, his father was killed by a white man and the life insurance company refused to pay money, which, according to law, belonged to the family. They claimed that Earl Little committed suicide, but, obviously, the core problem was the color of his skin. When the Great Depression started, the family was so poor that they could eat only dandelions and rely on welfare. When Louise was sent to the mental hospital, the family was broken apart and Malcolm blamed the state for that.


Chapter Two. Mascot

In 1937, Malcolm moved in with a white foster family. The boy accepted Swerlins` generosity, but he did not feel equal to white people, but rather a pet in their home. Malcolm remembered, “They all liked my attitude, and it was out of their liking for me that I soon became accepted by them - as a mascot, I know now.” (Haley, 1965) Malcolm did not feel comfortable even at school Mason Junior High despite the fact, he was very successful there. He claimed that he was very proud being elected the President of the class. However, he felt like a “pink poodle” there. Malcolm even found out that there was only one paragraph on a black history in his textbook. His teacher replied very rudely that despite the fact that black people were freed, they still were dumb and lazy. It was terrible: being very smart Malcolm wanted to become a lawyer, but the teacher Mr. Ostrowski only laughed at a boy. He just advised Malcolm to become a carpenter. Malcolm received one more lesson that white people, even kind-hearted ones, do not see blacks as their equal.

Growing older, Malcolm noticed more and more barriers, and it frustrated him much. He worked as a dishwasher and could visit his mother at a hospital and his brothers and sisters in different places of the country. Autobiography relates that Malcolm spent summer of 1940 in Boston; his half-sister lived there. Being impressed by her treatment he decided to move to Boston.

Chapter Three. Homeboy.

Moving to Boston, Malcolm looked like a countryman. It was his sister Ella, who encouraged him to explore the city to get some sense of urban fashion. Malcolm began to see the difference between the Blacks who lived in Boston and those who lived in Lansing. Moreover, he acknowledged that there also existed the distance between the middle-class blacks and the ones who lived in a ghetto and were very poor. Shortly, Malcolm began to search for a job. During his searches, he has met Shorty, who became Malcolm`s friend.  Shorty was an aspiring saxophonist who knew many important people in the town. This man helped Malcolm with money and job. On this job, Malcolm replaced the shoeshine boy, who just won an unofficial lottery. Passing out towels, tending men`s room, shining shoes, as well as selling condoms were the main Malcolm’s responsibilities. Soon, he learned that the most income came from selling drugs and alcohol and began another way of life – he played cards, drank, smoked and used drugs. His outcome allowed him to buy a suit and make a fashionable haircut. He learned how to overcome his shyness and opened a great passion to expressive dancing. The chapter ended when Malcolm quitted his job and appeared at the Roseland in the role of the customer.

Chapter Four. Laura

Malcolm started working as a clerk in a drugstore. He hated the atmosphere of the middle-class, but there was one girl, who attracted Malcolm`s eyes. It was Laura - a studious high school student with whom Malcolm shared his old dream to become a lawyer. She said, “Malcolm, there's no reason you can't pick up right where you are and become a lawyer.” (Haley, 1965) This girl encouraged and inspired him. As well as Malcolm, Laura was a good dancer, and they even won a dancing competition together. Sophia was another woman, who appeared in his life – a white woman who had a lot of white boyfriends, she served for Malcolm as the status symbol. Soon, Malcolm quitted his relationships with Laura and heard only bad news about her future. Later, he blamed himself for ruining the girl`s life.

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Chapter Five. Harlemite.

The fifth chapter began when Malcolm found a new job. Now he washed dishes on a train Boston-Washington. Also, he was selling sandwiches on a train line Boston-New York. Malcolm was truly dazzled by the wealth of New York; this city impressed him. For some aggressive performances, Malcolm was fired and he found the job of a day waiter at a bar Small Paradise. The customers and employers liked this black man, and they taught him many useful lessons. With these secrets, Malcolm began to invest a lot of money in the popular unofficial lottery in Harlem. In this period of life, Malcolm got acquainted with numerous pimps; one of them Sammy the Pimp became his best friend.

Chapter Six. Detroit Red

Being permanently employed Malcolm moved to a house run by prostitutes. His old friend Sophia often visited him though she was already a wife of a white man. Firstly, she did not like the conditions in which Malcolm lived, but soon she became good friends with prostitutes and spent much time in their house. Malcolm`s hair was flame-colored and he received the alias “Detroit Red”. Shortly, a very unpleasant incident happened. Malcolm referred some girl to a prostitute, but she turned out an undercover military agent and Malcolm lost his job. Sammy the Pimp helped Malcolm to get another occupation – a future leader began to sell marijuana to jazz musicians. This little business was successful firstly, but in a short while the local narcotics squad began to hunt for him and Malcolm lost his business trying to avoid them. A black stripe reached his life – he became addicted and used the drugs supposed for selling. Sometimes he even had not food and was forced to borrow money for it.

Chapter Seven. Hustler.   

In a short while, Malcolm came back to Boston. He visited Sophia, but that time their meeting was very discreet. The girl was married, but also there were even more popular fears concerning interracial romance because of the World War II. Malcolm was called to a military service. Trying to avoid it, Malcolm dressed extravagantly and had a very strange conversation with an army psychiatrist. He reflected that soon he would lead Southern Blacks to kill Southern Whites. 

Obviously, this conversation helped and Malcolm evaded the duty. He could not find any occupation in Boston since he was in a black list of the railroad company and the narcotics squad was aware of all Malcolm`s affairs, so he could not continue his drug-dealing there. Malcolm started the robberies. Moreover, he began guns sales and it was such a big stress that Malcolm started using harder drugs, especially cocaine.

Soon, his brother Reginald moved to Malcolm and it changed Malcolm`s views. He began to rent a real apartment in order to make sure his brother would have a home. He opined, “After he came to Harlem, I went on more jobs than usual. I guess that what influenced me to get my first actual apartment was my not wanting Reginald to be knocking around Harlem without anywhere to call "home." (Haley, 1965) The life in Harlem became harder. The Savoy Ballroom was closed down by the city government and the residents believed that this was done in order to quit interracial relations. The flow of white tourists was stopped because of two major riots. Malcolm had a row with Sammy the Pimp for slapping one of Sammy`s girls. After all, they made up; however they were no longer good friends who could trust each other.

Chapter Eight. Trapped.

Malcolm had many jobs in Harlem and some of them were quite odd. He transported betting slips for the lottery. Also, he worked for a madam who made him steer people with some sexual fantasies from downtown to the places whether these odd fantasies could be fulfilled. In 1945, Italian racketeers blamed him in robbing a craps game. Malcolm did not feel safe walking the streets. Soon, he began to import bootlegged liquor for Jewish businessman. He liked this job, but his boss was involved in a scandal and soon disappeared. Malcolm was more and more interested in playing numbers and it caused serious problems for him. Now not only Italian racketeers and police needed his blood, but also West Indian Archie, whom Malcolm owed a lot of money. Malcolm was very frightened and did not know what to do. He was afraid that the death was closer than ever, when his friend Shorty saved him and took to Boston.

Chapter Nine. Caught

Being in Boston, Malcolm began a new life – Ella and Shorty tried to work on his transformation. A man wanted to make a pause in his noisy and dangerous life full of criminal. Firstly, he was only listening to music, smoking marijuana and sleeping. He had many plans for future and shared them with Ella and Shorty. Malcolm began to meet Sophia again since her husband was a businessman and this fact helped Malcolm and Sophia to have the rendezvous. Malcolm was depending on Sophia`s money. He believed that “some women love to be exploited.” (Haley, 1965) Malcolm had not any job, and it was high time to think about a new hustle. With the help of his reputation, Malcolm managed to gather a band that consisted of him, Shorty and Italian black man named Rudy. Moreover, they used the help of Sophia and her sister in order to avoid suspicion. They had a plan: women visited the houses pretending the sales agents, then they described what they saw there and Malcolm`s band robbed these houses at night.

One night Malcolm saw Sophia and her sister in a bar with a white man who turned out Sophia husband`s friend. Malcolm behaved very strange and addressed the woman intimately. Soon, he became the object of hatred of Sophia`s husband and his friend. When police arrested Malcolm in the pawn shop, he did not resist. In court, Malcolm was very surprised that he was more blamed for the relation with white woman rather than a burglary he committed. He said to the lawyer “We seem to be getting sentenced because of those girls” (Haley, 1965) Malcolm was sentenced to ten years in prison.

Chapter Ten. Satan

It should be point out that Malcolm took the time in prison to grow intellectually and overthink his past. Malcolm was placed in solitary confinement with a nickname “Satan”. His acquaintance with Bimbi – a confident black prisoner changed Malcolm. He began to analyze the sins of his youth, read a lot of books, and perfect his English. In 1948, Malcolm was moved to Norfolk Prison Colony which was less violent and he could debate freely there. He learned many disciplines in prison including literature, history, religion, linguistics and biology.

Malcolm was prepared to the most important decision in his life. Being a child, he has heard about Islam. Earlier, Malcolm gave up pork at Reginald request. Later he considered this decision as the first step to converting to Islam. His brother told Malcolm about Muhammad, whose teaching did not respect white people. Before converting to a new religion, Malcolm thought about all white people he knew – his teachers, policemen, customers, judges and many others who did harm for him. Soon, Malcolm accepted new religion with its principles. Malcolm began to believe in Muhammad’s teaching that the Blacks were the first humans. They lived peacefully under Allah, but soon were stolen from Africa and were brainwashed. Malcolm began to believe that white people made Blacks adopt their culture, traditions, names and gods. With this in mind, Malcolm prayed every single day.

Chapter Eleven. Saved.

In order to improve his skills, Malcolm rewrote the whole dictionary. With the expanding dictionary, Malcolm spent days and nights over the books. His new system of beliefs had Africa in its center. He learned the facts that the pyramids were built by Africans and the famous storyteller Aesop was the African too; Malcolm was very proud. He was deeply impressed by the terrible experience of slavery. Malcolm was introduced to public speaking due to the prisoners’ debate program. He managed to touch the problem of race regardless the topic. His new faith allowed him to move away from his brother Reginald. Malcolm believed that Allah punished him for the sins. Malcolm was trying to find more and more supporters of his beliefs among the prisoners. 

Chapter Twelve. Savior

In 1952, Malcolm was released from prison in the custody of his brother Winfred. Malcolm wanted to show his new status and has bought a watch, a pair of eyeglasses and a suitcase. He was truly impressed by Winfred`s house. In Chicago, Malcolm wanted to show how his faith was strengthened and how he could resist the temptation of the surrounding world. Eventually, Malcolm decided to court boys and girls. Firstly, he did not succeed in it persuading only a few people. Shortly, he replaced his surname with “X”. It symbolized the unknown names of African people. Malcolm gained success as an orator and visited more and more meetings. This chapter also relates the story of Elijah Muhammad – Malcolm`s new friend and partner.

Chapter Thirteen. Minister Malcolm X

Malcolm`s new friend Elijah Muhammad needed ministers in his new growing organization and Malcolm desired to help him. He quit his job in the Ford Motor Company and began to attend extensive training. His rhetorical style was greatly improved and reached a new level. When Malcolm was ready, Muhammad sent him to Boston to help in a founding of a temple. In Boston, Malcolm tried to convert his old friend Shorty to Islam but this man loved women and pork too much to be converted; however, Shorty was very glad to see Malcolm`s metamorphosis.

In a while, Muhammad asked Malcolm to visit Philadelphia and New York with the same aim. Being in New York, Malcolm discovered that Sammy the Pimp was dead and West Indian Archie was also close to death. In 1956, Malcolm met Betty – a pretty black woman. For Malcolm, who has been celibate for ten years, she was beautiful. Malcolm introduced Betty to Elijah Muhammad and soon married her. The new family settled in Queens, New York and had four children when Malcolm was alive, and the fifth child was born after his death.

It should be pointed that the organization The Nation of Islam became very popular, especially after police attacked one of its members.

Chapter Fourteen. Black Muslims. 

In 1957, being in Los Angeles, Malcolm noticed the newspaper of the Nation of Islam – Muhammad Speaks. Now, Malcolm had many problems trying to protect his views from journalists and interviewers. In 1959, Malcolm visited the countries that were interested in the Nation of Islam – Arabia, Nigeria, Egypt, Sudan and Ghana. Inspired by previous success, Malcolm began to criticize black civil rights leaders. By 1960, their organization began to hold mass rallies - firstly only for blacks, but later for all people interested. 

The success of the Nation attracted police and FBI, who tapped the telephone of Malcolm X. Indeed, the Nation of Islam succeeded in reforming drug addicts having a lot of its members in prison.

Chapter Fifteen. Icarus

Chapter fifteen relates about huge changes that took place in the Nation of Islam. Elijah Muhammad could not solve numerous problems and Malcolm had to make almost all the decisions by himself. Because of the bad health, Elijah Muhammad settled in Arizona and was far from the organizational business. Malcolm X tried to overwhelm the intellectual confrontations that followed his speeches at universities. Some Muslims frequently accused Malcolm X to take the authority in the Nation of Islam. Soon, his name began to appear less in Muhammad Speaks, and he had to take efforts trying to reduce Elijah Muhammad`s jealousy.

Chapter Sixteen. Out

The relationship between Malcolm and the Nation of Islam became more difficult when Elijah Muhammad was accused of paternity by two temple secretaries. Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad had a very serious conversation. Malcolm X asked Elijah for the public confession, but the head of the Nation of Islam did not do that. 

Their relationship became worse after the death of John Kennedy. Malcolm ignored the order of Elijah Muhammad to avoid commenting the death of the President and thus justified the murder by his speech. Elijah Muhammad was silent for ninety days. Soon, Malcolm acknowledged that such reaction to his speech was just a reason to abandon him.  Malcolm described this decision as a divorce after twelve happy years of marriage. Malcolm began to hear the rumors about his death and learned from his assistant that the Nation of Islam was going to kill him. In order to avoid troubles, Malcolm X accepted invitation of Cassius Clay to visit Florida where the boxer was preparing to the fight. After the fight, Clay announced his converting into Islam taking the name Muhammad Ali.

Malcolm X began to analyze how he could serve to interests of black people. He decided to make an organization that could be alternative to the Nation of Islam. Also, Malcolm X decided to start a pilgrimage to Mecca – holy city for all Muslims. Malcolm had not money for this trip and asked his sister Ella for help.

Chapter Seventeen. Mecca

Chapter seventeenth proves how it is important for every Muslim to visit Mecca. Without any problems, he received money from Ella; the sister supported every Malcolm`s decision. When Malcolm applied for visa, he acknowledged that his Muslim status should be approved by a Muslim United Nations advisor. He needed to attend numerous organizations in Cairo and Jeddah where officials should review his documents in order to make sure that he is a Muslim. Finally, Malcolm started his pilgrimage. He was impressed of Mecca and the whole Islamic world. There were not racial divisions and people were tolerant and kind-hearted. Being there, Malcolm X established his thought that Islam was the solution for many American problems. He took the name El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, but still was known for Malcolm X all over the world.

Chapter Eighteen. El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz

Becoming more and more popular, Malcolm acknowledged that the leaders of non-white nations are interested in the American Blacks. He visited Ghana, Morocco, Senegal and Liberia. In America, the journalists provoked him asking how he was connected with the race riots across the country. Malcolm remembered “The major press, radio, and television media in America had representatives in Cairo hunting all over, trying to locate me, to interview me about the furor in New York that I had allegedly caused-when I knew nothing about any of it.” (Haley, 1965) He was frustrated of public refusal to accept his new outlook.

Chapter Nineteenth. 1965

Later, in Harlem, Malcolm X founded the organization for Afro-American Unity. White people were excluded from the membership in the Unity, though the black leader emphasized on its devotion to people of every faith and culture. Malcolm believed that black people all over the globe should unite in order to fight racism. Afterwards, he returned to Africa and Middle East keeping fight with racial prejudices in every country. Malcolm visited many world leaders. He predicted his death and doubted that he could read his autobiography till death.

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