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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Important Quotes

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“Mine was the same psychology that makes Negroes even today, though it bothers them down inside, keep letting the white man tell them how much ‘progress’ they are making. They’ve heard it so much they’ve almost gotten brainwashed into believing it—or at least accepting it.” 


(Chapter 2, Page 35)

Here, Malcolm describes his attitude as a junior high student at a predominantly White school. Facing little outright personal animosity from classmates or teachers, Malcolm still endures an onslaught of casual racial slurs and unspoken discrimination. Looking back, he sees his experience as representative of a broader attitude among Black men and women toward accepting the White supremacist status quo.

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“I’ve often thought that if Mr. Ostrowski had encouraged me to become a lawyer, I would today probably be among some city’s professional black bourgeoisie, sipping cocktails and palming myself off as a community spokesman for and leader of the suffering black masses, while my primary concern would be to grab a few more crumbs from the groaning board of the two-faced whites with whom they’re begging to ‘integrate.’ All praise is due to Allah that I went to Boston when I did. If I hadn’t, I’d probably still be a brainwashed black Christian.” 


(Chapter 2, Page 46)

The moment when Mr. Ostrowski tells Malcolm that his goal of becoming a lawyer is unrealistic is the first and perhaps most significant turning point in Malcolm’s life. It is the moment when the generally subtle racism he faces everyday mutates into an explicit expression of how much the world devalues him as a young Black man. Ultimately, Malcolm is grateful to have reached this epiphany so early, before embarking on a professional path that would have made him one of White Christian society’s brainwashed enablers.

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“What I thought I was seeing there in Roxbury were high-class, educated, important Negroes, living well, working in big jobs and positions. Their quiet homes sat back in their mowed yards. These Negroes walked along the sidewalks looking haughty and dignified, on their way to work, to shop, to visit, to church. I know now, of course, that what I was really seeing was only a big-city version of those ‘successful’ Negro bootblacks and janitors back in Lansing. The only difference was that the ones in Boston had been brainwashed even more thoroughly.”


(Chapter 3, Page 48)

No matter where Malcolm looks, he sees variations of the same hierarchies in Black communities. Rather than view relatively prosperous Black professionals as evidence of progress, Malcolm believes Black communities are trained to be satisfied with a small amount of wealth separating them from only the very poorest in their community.

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