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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Key Figures

Malcolm X

Born Malcolm Little in 1925, Malcolm X was a human rights activist whose legacy continues to inform modern civil rights and racial justice movements. When Malcolm was four, the Midwestern anti-Black terrorist group Black Legion burned down his family’s house. Two years later, the same group murdered and mutilated Malcolm’s father Earl, a Pan-African Baptist minister, leaving Malcolm keenly aware of the existential threat posed by White supremacy.

Tall, red-haired, and relatively light-skinned, Malcolm had a complex relationship with Blackness from an early age. As the only Black person in his class in junior high, Malcolm thrived socially and academically, but felt like a “mascot”—well liked but ultimately disrespected. In eighth grade, in what Malcolm characterized as a crucial turning point in his life, his seemingly supportive English teacher told him it was “unrealistic” for him to want to be a lawyer because he was Black.

Malcolm struggled to resist what he later termed White supremacist “brainwashing” that enforced a lack of Black pride. Only in prison did Malcolm fully reject internalized White supremacist ideas through his discovery of the Nation of Islam. For the next 12 years, Malcolm angrily and eloquently spread the organization’s teachings, which included a belief in the superiority of Black people and the rejection of White people as “devils.