Cover image for The autobiography of Malcolm X
Title:
The autobiography of Malcolm X
ISBN:
9780345376718
Edition:
1st Ballantine Books ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Ballantine Books, 1992.
Physical Description:
xv, 527 p. ; 21 cm.
General Note:
Originally published: New york : Grove Press, 1965.
Added Author:
Holds:

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Summary

Summary

ONE OF TIME 'S TEN MOST IMPORTANT NONFICTION BOOKS OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

In the searing pages of this classic autobiography, originally published in 1964, Malcolm X, the Muslim leader, firebrand, and anti-integrationist, tells the extraordinary story of his life and the growth of the Black Muslim movement. His fascinating perspective on the lies and limitations of the American Dream, and the inherent racism in a society that denies its nonwhite citizens the opportunity to dream, gives extraordinary insight into the most urgent issues of our own time. The Autobiography of Malcolm X stands as the definitive statement of a movement and a man whose work was never completed but whose message is timeless. It is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand America.

Praise for The Autobiography of Malcolm X

"Malcolm X's autobiography seemed to offer something different. His repeated acts of self-creation spoke to me; the blunt poetry of his words, his unadorned insistence on respect, promised a new and uncompromising order, martial in its discipline, forged through sheer force of will." --Barack Obama, Dreams from My Father

"Extraordinary . . . a brilliant, painful, important book." -- The New York Times

"A great book . . . Its dead level honesty, its passion, its exalted purpose, will make it stand as a monument to the most painful truth." -- The Nation

"The most important book I'll ever read, it changed the way I thought, it changed the way I acted. It has given me courage I didn't know I had inside me. I'm one of hundreds of thousands whose lives were changed for the better." --Spike Lee

"This book will have a permanent place in the literature of the Afro-American struggle." --I. F. Stone


Author Notes

Alex Haley is the world-renowned author of Roots, which has sold six million hardcover copies and has been translated into thirty languages. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Alex Haley died in February 1992.


Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Gr. 7^-12. Malcolm X was always transforming himself, whether on his pilgrimage to Mecca or in the streets of Harlem, and his religious faith was part of his political growth. "It is only after the deepest darkness that the greatest joy can come; it is only after slavery and prison that the sweetest appreciation of freedom can come," he said. A book that will stimulate much discussion about faith and identity.


New York Review of Books Review

no one becomes "not racist," despite a tendency by Americans to identify themselves that way. We can only strive to be "antiracist" on a daily basis, to continually rededicate ourselves to the lifelong task of overcoming our country's racist heritage. We learn early the racist notion that white people have more because they are more; that people of color have less because they are less. 1 had internalized this worldview by my high school graduation, seeing myself and my race as less than other people and blaming other blacks for racial inequities. To build a nation of equal opportunity for everyone, we need to dismantle this spurious legacy of our common upbringing. One of the best ways to do this is by reading books. Not books that reinforce old ideas about who we think we are, what we think America is, what we think racism is. Instead, we need to read books that are difficult or unorthodox, that don't go down easily. Books that force us to confront our self-serving beliefs and make us aware that "I'm not racist" is a slogan of denial. The reading list below is composed of just such books - a combination of classics, relatively obscure works and a few of recent vintage. Think of it as a stepladder to antiracism, each step addressing a different stage of the journey toward destroying racism's insidious hold on all of us. Biology "FATAL INVENTION: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-First Century," by Dorothy Roberts (New Press, 2011). No book destabilized my fraught notions of racial distinction and hierarchy - the belief that each race had different genes, diseases and natural abilities - more than this vigorous critique of the "biopolitics of race." Roberts, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, shows unequivocally that all people are indeed created equal, despite political and economic special interests that keep trying to persuade us otherwise. Ethnicity "WEST INDIAN IMMIGRANTS: A Black Success Story?" by Suzanne Model (Russell Sage Foundation, 2008). Some of the same forces have led Americans to believe that the recent success of black immigrants from the Caribbean proves either that racism does not exist or that the gap between African-Americans and other groups in income and wealth is their own fault. But Model's meticulous study, emphasizing the self-selecting nature of the West Indians who emigrate to the United States, argues otherwise, showing me, a native of racially diverse New York City, how such notions - the foundation of ethnic racism - are unsupported by the facts. Body "THE CONDEMNATION OF BLACKNESS: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America," by Khalil Gibran Muhammad (Harvard University, 2010). "Black" and "criminal" are as wedded in America as "star" and "spangled." Muhammad's book traces these ideas to the late 19th century, when racist policies led to the disproportionate arrest and incarceration of blacks, igniting urban whites' fears and bequeathing tenaciously racist stereotypes. Culture "THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD," by Zora Neale Hurston (1937). Of course, the black body exists within a wider black culture - one Hurston portrayed with grace and insight in this seminal novel. She defies racist Americans who would standardize the cultures of white people or sanitize, eroticize, erase or assimilate those of blacks. Behavior "THE NEGRO ARTIST AND THE RACIAL MOUNTAIN," by Langston Hughes (The Nation, June 23, 1926). "We younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame," Hughes wrote nearly 100 years ago. "We know we are beautiful. And ugly too." We are all imperfectly human, and these imperfections are also markers of human equality. Color "THE BLUEST EYE," by Toni Morrison (1970); "THE BLACKER THE BERRY," by Wallace Thurman (1929). Beautiful and hardworking black people come in all shades. If dark people have less it is not because they are less, a moral eloquently conveyed in these two classic novels, stirring explorations of colorism. Whiteness "THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MALCOLM X," by Malcolm X and Alex Haley (1965); "DYING OF WHITENESS: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America's Heartland," by Jonathan M. Metzl (Basic Books, 2019). Malcolm X began by adoring whiteness, grew to hate white people and, ultimately, despised the false concept of white superiority - a killer of people of color. And not only them: low- and middle-income white people too, as Metzl's timely book shows, with its look at Trump-era policies that have unraveled the Affordable Care Act and contributed to rising gun suicide rates and lowered life expectancies. Blackness "LOCKING UP OUR OWN: Crime and Punishment in Black America," by James Forman Jr. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2017). Just as Metzl explains how seemingly pro-white policies are killing whites, Forman explains how blacks themselves abetted the mass incarceration of other blacks, beginning in the 1970s. Amid rising crime rates, black mayors, judges, prosecutors and police chiefs embraced toughon-crime policies that they promoted as pro-black with tragic consequences for black America. Class "BLACK MARXISM: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition," by Cedric J. Robinson (Zed Press, 1983). Black America has been economically devastated by what Robinson calls racial capitalism. He chastises white Marxists (and black capitalists) for failing to acknowledge capitalism's racial character, and for embracing as sufficient an interpretation of history founded on a European vision of class struggle. Spaces "WAITING 'TIL THE MIDNIGHT HOUR: A Narrative History of Black Power in America," by Peniel E. Joseph (Holt, 2006). As racial capitalism deprives black communities of resources, assimilationists ignore or gentrify these same spaces in the name of "development" and "integration." To be antiracist is not only to promote equity among racial groups, but also among their spaces, something the black power movement of the 1960s and 1970s understood well, as Joseph's chronicle makes clear. Gender "HOW WE GET FREE: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective," edited by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor (Haymarket, 2017); "WELL-READ BLACK GIRL: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves," edited by Glory Edim (Ballantine, 2018). I began my career studying, and too often admiring, activists who demanded black (male) power over black communities, including over black women, whom they placed on pedestals and under their feet. Black feminist literature, including these anthologies, helps us recognize black women "as human, levelly human," as the Combahee River Collective demanded to be seen in 1977. Sexuality "REDEFINING REALNESS: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More," by Janet Mock (Atria, 2014); "SISTER OUTSIDER: Essays and Speeches," by Audre Lorde (Crossing Press, 1984). 1 grew up in a Christian household thinking there was something abnormal and immoral about queer blacks. My racialized transphobia made Mock's memoir an agonizing read - just as my racialized homophobia made Lorde's essays and speeches a challenge. But pain often precedes healing. By not running from the books that pain us, we can allow them to transform us. 1 ran from antiracist books most of my life. But now 1 can't stop running after them - scrutinizing myself and my society, and in the process changing both.


Excerpts

Excerpts

CHAPTER 1   NIGHTMARE   When my mother was pregnant with me, she told me later, a party of hooded Ku Klux Klan riders galloped up to our home in Omaha, Nebraska, one night. Surrounding the house, brandishing their shotguns and rifles, they shouted for my father to come out. My mother went to the front door and opened it. Standing where they could see her pregnant condition, she told them that she was alone with her three small children, and that my father was away, preaching, in Milwaukee. The Klansmen shouted threats and warnings at her that we had better get out of town because "the good Christian white people" were not going to stand for my father's "spreading trouble" among the "good" Negroes of Omaha with the "back to Africa" preachings of Marcus Garvey.   My father, the Reverend Earl Little, was a Baptist minister, a dedicated organizer for Marcus Aurelius Garvey's U.N.I.A. (Universal Negro Improvement Association). With the help of such disciples as my father, Garvey, from his headquarters in New York City's Harlem, was raising the banner of black-race purity and exhorting the Negro masses to return to their ancestral African homeland--a cause which had made Garvey the most controversial black man on earth. Still shouting threats, the Klansmen finally spurred their horses and galloped around the house, shattering every window pane with their gun butts. Then they rode off into the night, their torches flaring, as suddenly as they had come.   My father was enraged when he returned. He decided to wait until I was born--which would be soon--and then the family would move. I am not sure why he made this decision, for he was not a frightened Negro, as most then were, and many still are today. My father was a big, six-foot-four, very black man. He had only one eye. How he had lost the other one I have never known. He was from Reynolds, Georgia, where he had left school after the third or maybe fourth grade. He believed, as did Marcus Garvey, that freedom, independence and self-respect could never be achieved by the Negro in America, and that therefore the Negro should leave America to the white man and return to his African land of origin. Among the reasons my father had decided to risk and dedicate his life to help disseminate this philosophy among his people was that he had seen four of his six brothers die by violence, three of them killed by white men, including one by lynching. What my father could not know then was that of the remaining three, including himself, only one, my Uncle Jim, would die in bed, of natural causes. Northern white police were later to shoot my Uncle Oscar. And my father was finally himself to die by the white man's hands.   It has always been my belief that I, too, will die by violence. I have done all that I can to be prepared.   I was my father's seventh child. He had three children by a previous marriage--Ella, Earl, and Mary, who lived in Boston. He had met and married my mother in Philadelphia, where their first child, my oldest full brother, Wilfred, was born. They moved from Philadelphia to Omaha, where Hilda and then Philbert were born.   I was next in line. My mother was twenty-eight when I was born on May 19, 1925, in an Omaha hospital. Then we moved to Milwaukee, where Reginald was born. From infancy, he had some kind of hernia condition which was to handicap him physically for the rest of his life.   Louise Little, my mother, who was born in Grenada, in the British West Indies, looked like a white woman. Her father was white. She had straight black hair, and her accent did not sound like a Negro's. Of this white father of hers, I know nothing except her shame about it. I remember hearing her say she was glad that she had never seen him. It was, of course, because of him that I got my reddish-brown "mariny" color of skin, and my hair of the same color. I was the lightest child in our family. (Out in the world later on, in Boston and New York, I was among the millions of Negroes who were insane enough to feel that it was some kind of status symbol to be light-complexioned--that one was actually fortunate to be born thus. But, still later, I learned to hate every drop of that white rapist's blood that is in me.)   Our family stayed only briefly in Milwaukee, for my father wanted to find a place where he could raise our own food and perhaps build a business. The teaching of Marcus Garvey stressed becoming independent of the white man. We went next, for some reason, to Lansing, Michigan. My father bought a house and soon, as had been his pattern, he was doing freelance Christian preaching in local Negro Baptist churches, and during the week he was roaming about spreading word of Marcus Garvey.   He had begun to lay away savings for the store he had always wanted to own when, as always, some stupid local Uncle Tom Negroes began to funnel stories about his revolutionary beliefs to the local white people. This time, the get-out-of-town threats came from a local hate society called The Black Legion. They wore black robes instead of white. Soon, nearly everywhere my father went, Black Legionnaires were reviling him as an "uppity nigger" for wanting to own a store, for living outside the Lansing Negro district, for spreading unrest and dissention among "the good niggers."   As in Omaha, my mother was pregnant again, this time with my youngest sister. Shortly after Yvonne was born came the nightmare night in 1929, my earliest vivid memory. I remember being suddenly snatched awake into a frightening confusion of pistol shots and shouting and smoke and flames. My father had shouted and shot at the two white men who had set the fire and were running away. Our home was burning down around us. We were lunging and bumping and tumbling all over each other trying to escape. My mother, with the baby in her arms, just made it into the yard before the house crashed in, showering sparks. I remember we were outside in the night in our underwear, crying and yelling our heads off. The white police and firemen came and stood around watching as the house burned down to the ground.   My father prevailed on some friends to clothe and house us temporarily; then he moved us into another house on the outskirts of East Lansing. In those days Negroes weren't allowed after dark in East Lansing proper. There's where Michigan State University is located; I related all of this to an audience of students when I spoke there in January, 1963 (and had the first reunion in a long while with my younger brother, Robert, who was there doing postgraduate studies in psychology). I told them how East Lansing harassed us so much that we had to move again, this time two miles out of town, into the country. This was where my father built for us with his own hands a four-room house. This is where I really begin to remember things--this home where I started to grow up."   After the fire, I remember that my father was called in and questioned about a permit for the pistol with which he had shot at the white men who set the fire. I remember that the police were always dropping by our house, shoving things around, "just checking" or "looking for a gun." The pistol they were looking for--which they never found, and for which they wouldn't issue a permit--was sewed up inside a pillow. My father's .22 rifle and his shotgun, though, were right out in the open; everyone had them for hunting birds and rabbits and other game.   Excerpted from The Autobiography of Malcolm X All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.


Table of Contents

Introductionp. ix
1 Nightmarep. 3
2 Mascotp. 28
3 "Homeboy"p. 47
4 Laurap. 66
5 Harlemitep. 82
6 Detroit Redp. 98
7 Hustlerp. 125
8 Trappedp. 146
9 Caughtp. 155
10 Satanp. 175
11 Savedp. 195
12 Saviorp. 220
13 Minister Malcolm Xp. 243
14 Black Muslimsp. 271
15 Icarusp. 306
16 Outp. 332
17 Meccap. 366
18 El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazzp. 394
19 1965p. 419
Alex Haley: Epiloguep. 441
Ossie Davis: On Malcolm Xp. 524