The Autobiography of Malcolm X – Malcolm X & Alex Haley

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I was going through the hardest thing, also the greatest thing, for any human being to do; to accept that which is already within you, and around you.

-Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X

 

I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.

-Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X

If I had to use one word to describe the life of Malcolm X, I would use the word “growth”. He overcame poverty, a life of crime, drug addiction, poor education (despite being extremely intelligent), and the racism of his time. He eventually made peace with himself and humanity and began to teach love until he was assassinated.

Malcolm X is one of the most polarizing figures in the history of American human rights. He was part of the Nation of Islam, an organization that promotes independence, self-respect, and clean living in the black community, but also teaches segregation and hatred of the white race.

If you learn more about his early life and the struggles he overcame as a black man born in the early part of the 20th century in rural Michigan, you can understand why the teachings of the Nation of Islam attracted him.

His father was an outspoken minister and early proponent of black pride and nationalism. When Malcolm was young, his father was murdered. The insurance company refused to pay death benefits to his mother – they “investigated” the death and declared that it was an accident.

He had several siblings, and his mother struggled to keep the family together, and eventually had to swallow her pride and accept government aid. This allowed social workers access to the family, and they worked not to help the family, but to split apart. After several years, his mother was institutionalized, and the children were sent to different families. He began to dip into crime around this time and ended up in a juvenile care facility. He was known to be extremely bright, and had the ambition to be a lawyer, but was told to become a carpenter by a teacher because of his race.

He eventually moved to New York, to live with a female family member. Despite the fact that she was well-intentioned and a good influence, he got deeper into crime and began dealing and burglarizing. He was eventually sent to prison, where he taught himself how to read and write. This is where he was introduced to the teachings of the Nation of Islam (separate from the religion of Islam). He went from a staunch atheist to a deeply spiritual man and began his journey toward becoming a human rights figure and reinventing himself and his views on humanity.

I love Malcolm, because if he can turn his life around, so can I. Throughout his speeches and work, you learn that no one will respect you until you respect yourself.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who feels hopeless in their own life or anyone who wants to know more about the civil rights period in American history. I must warn you–he was quite adverse to the white race for a long time, so there is a lot of racist ideology…he grows out of it, though. This book gave me hope for the power of the individual to change, as well as hope for humanity as a whole.

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