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 10-12

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 10 Summary: “Satan”

Even though they are first offenders, Malcolm and Shorty are convicted and sentenced to ten years, the maximum sentence for their crime. Malcolm believes they received maximum sentences because their crimes involved the “corruption” of young White women. The women, meanwhile, receive one to five years at a women’s reformatory.

As Malcolm begins his sentence in Charlestown State Prison, he goes into withdrawal. To cope, Malcolm trades cigarettes to the kitchen staff for nutmeg, which, he says has the psychoactive effect of marijuana when mixed with water. Malcolm likens his behavior during his first year behind bars to those of a “caged leopard, viciously cursing aloud to myself. And my favorite targets were the Bible and God” (177). This attitude earns him the nickname “Satan.” The only positive influence during this early period is a fellow incarcerated man named Bimbi, whose verbal prowess teaches Malcolm that individuals can hold profound influence through the command of words alone.

In his second year in prison, Malcolm receives a letter from his older brother Philbert extolling the virtues of the Nation of Islam, a movement that combines Black nationalism with Islam. Reginald, also a member of the Nation of Islam, writes Malcolm a more mysterious letter, in which he advises, “Malcolm, don’t eat any more pork, and don’t smoke any cigarettes.