92 pages 3 hours read

Malcolm X, Alex Haley

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Nonfiction | Autobiography / Memoir | Adult | Published in 1965

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Chapters 1-4

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 1 Summary: “Nightmare”

Malcolm’s narrative begins when he is still in the womb. In 1925, Ku Klux Klan riders terrorize his pregnant mother Louise Helen Little in Omaha, Nebraska. The Klan riders demand to see her husband Earl, a Baptist minister spreading the Pan-African teachings of Marcus Garvey, a highly controversial figure among Whites. When the riders learn that Earl is away preaching in Milwaukee, they smash all the windows of Louise’s home with their rifle butts. Rightly concerned about the safety of his family, Earl moves his wife and four children—Wilfred, Hilda, Philbert, and newborn Malcolm—to Milwaukee.

After a brief stay in Milwaukee, during which Louise gives birth to another son, Reginald, the family settles in Lansing, Michigan. There, Earl’s Pan-African teachings draw the ire of the Black Legion, a local White supremacist terrorist organization. In 1929, in what Malcolm calls one of his earliest memories, Black Legion members set fire to his home. The family barely escapes before the house collapses.

The Littles resettle in nearby East Lansing, where Earl continues to preach. Two years later in 1931, Earl’s body is found laid over a streetcar track, with his head crushed and his body nearly cut in half by a streetcar.