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The Autobiography of Malcolm X Book response

“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.” (Haley, 350) These were Malcolm X’s words summing up the main aim of his life full of struggle and searching for the human equality.
The book “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” was written by a journalist Alex Haley, who co-operated with Malcolm X for several years. During long interviews, Malcolm X was telling Haley about his life, he edited and confirmed every chapter of the future book.
Malcolm Little was born and brought up in the first half of the twentieth century – the time when racism was legitimate in the USA, especially in the South. His family constantly experienced persecution. White people killed Malcolm’s father and his mother was sent to a lunatic asylum. Undoubtedly, due to these circumstances Malcolm spent his youth, drinking, taking and selling drugs and sending white people to black parlor houses. He realized bitterly that he could do nothing to improve the condition of black people but he was convinced that they should withstand white people and their help. When he was working in the Harlem ghetto he used to blame white people in all troubles of the black and preferred not to see the misdeeds of his friends. He was firmly convinced that this was white society that limited the opportunities of African Americans. For example, Malcolm considered Sammy the Pimp to have enough dexterity to be a prominent businessman, but he could not put his skills to good use in Harlem. “All of us—who might have probed space, or cured cancer, or built industries—were, instead, black victims of the white man’s American social system.” (Haley, 100)
Malcolm’s criminal activities stopped when he was arrested in Boston and sent to jail. That was a crucial moment because he regenerated and began a new chapter in his life. Having seen the life in Harlem in all its horrible details the reader can realize what drastic changes Malcolm experienced in prison. There he was converted to Islam that was preached by the organization the Nation of Islam. Under the influence of the faith, he stopped taking drugs and after the release from prison became an assistant in Detroit temple of the Nation of Islam. It was the time when he changed his last name “Little” for “X”, using the letter to stand for the last name of his African forefathers. While working for the Nation of Islam Malcolm X increased his animosity towards white people. All his life he had been discriminated and humiliated because of the color of his skin and therefore he revenged himself upon white people for this eternal subjugation. His perception of racism altered – he began to conceive it as not the personal attack but as the confrontation of two worlds, black and white. This issue was no more a personal problem for him but a problem of national and international levels. Besides his perception of racism became more complex comparing with his views as an adolescent. Due to his faith, Malcolm X managed to revalue his life and all his experience: “all of our experiences fuse into our personality” (Haley, 150)
When Malcolm X met the leader of the Nation of Islam Elijah Muhammad, he became first an assistant minister at the temple and then a Minister who was traveling around America, converting more and more people into Islam. The organization expanded and got fame around the world. Malcolm X became more and more popular not only throughout the USA but beyond the Muslim society as well. Though Malcolm admired Elijah Muhammad and saw him more than a god than a person, after twelve years of fruitful co-operation and mutual understanding Elijah Muhammad disappointed Malcolm by his behavior and his decisions. After the assassination of the President John F. Kennedy, it turned out that Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm had different views on the relation of the organization to politics. While Elijah Muhammad thought that they should be separate, Malcolm X insisted on the participation of the Nation of Islam in politics. Thus, Malcolm X had to leave the organization but he never stopped protecting interests of black people. Being extremely famous, he decided to found his own organization “Muslim Mosque, Inc.” in Harlem.
In 1964, Malcolm X resolved to go to Mecca in Saudi Arabia and to make a trip to the Middle East and Africa. During his pilgrimage, he became a Sunni Muslim. This period of Malcolm X’s life was marked by another turning point. That journey had a great impact on Malcolm as he saw another Islamic world, without racial division. Having seen this version of Islam, he realized that it differed from the one he had preached during his life and he tried to find there the solutions of racial problems in America. “America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem.” (Haley, 256) His attitude towards white people also changed, he saw whites who were not involved into racism. For instance, while being at the airport in Saudi Arabia Malcolm saw many Muslims around him who had different languages, colors of skin and customs but were peacefully co-existing. Malcolm X experienced radical change of his opinion. He broadened his perspective on the race relations and realized that it was a vital issue not only for the black in America but throughout the world. Finally, his views upon the problem were molded and Malcolm saw the solution in worldwide co-operation.
Throughout the book, one can see the development of Malcolm X’s views that helps readers to realize that Malcolm X was not simply a violent revengeful leader of African Americans but a contradictory personality who was trying to improve the life of his race in the entire world.
“Autobiography of Malcolm X” is considered one of the most important non-fiction books of the twentieth century as it gives the true reflections of a significant person that played a key role both in the development of the influential organization the Nation of Islam and in the struggle against the oppression of African Americans.

1. Haley Alex, Malcolm X. The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Ballantine Books, 1989.


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