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The Autobiography of Malcolm X as Told to Alex Haley Essay

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Updated: Jan 2nd, 2022

Reinforced by many positive feedbacks about this book I sat down and read it from cover to cover. Although it still raises lots of controversial feelings deep inside, I have to admit that this book is outstandingly influential for those who wish to know the roots of civil equality.

There has not been such a narrative about the actual life of a human rights activist, so far. Deservedly, the book is considered to be one of a kind due to its essence. I have got a chance to see the magnificent life career of a vitally important historical figure for the twentieth century from inside. The autobiography gives a wonderful opportunity to understand the essence of Malcolm X’s life and deeds.

Having gone through various fierce life tortures, he had advanced from wards of the state to the utmost an African American would reach – the founder of the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU).

Born in Omaha, Nebraska, as Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925, Malcolm X was destined to have a hard but influential life story. He had experienced the grief of his father’s death when he was six, which subsequently led him to subconscious war against human rights inequality. His father was supposedly killed by racists in a road accident and was afterwards laid across tracks to mutilate the face cruelly, so Malcolm X’s mother and her relatives considered.

After trying to survive by accomplishing several jobs, Malcolm X’s mother had a psychological breakdown, which led her to a commitment to a state mental hospital. Hence, the children became the wards of the state.

Nevertheless, having absolutely collapsed with the loss of faith, Malcolm X has gained respect within the teachers as a diligent and talented student of a normal public school. It is considered that he would have avoided the further sentence to eight to ten years for burglary if his teacher did not discourage the desire to study and become a lawyer. This impacted Malcolm X’s inner world perception and he gave up school to enroll in an unwholesome crowd and sell drugs through working as a shoeshine boy.

Between 1946 and 1952 the great changes emerged in Malcolm X’s insight. When being in prison for an unfair sentence because of white women crime involvement, Malcolm X reinforces his believes in knowledge and starts taking correspondence courses of English and Latin. Moreover, often visiting library he stated studying the works of the leader of Nation of Islam Elijah Muhammad, who had insisted on the evil innateness of whites. Besides, this is when Malcolm Little dropped his last name and adopted the name Malcolm X.

So, ever since Malcolm X was paroled in 1952, he became a member of Nation of Islam and was ministering the Temple Seven in Harlem as a result of meeting Elijah Muhammad in person and attracting the like-minded people.

After Malcolm X has gained a huge popularity, as he thought, and was suspended from the Nation of Islam, the real fear for his own life attended him more often. Needless to say he was absolutely sure in his popularity among blacks of Harlem, therefore there were no doubts about forming his own brand new organization called the Muslim Mosque, Incorporated. Moreover, proving entire dedication to his beliefs he accomplished a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, which resulted in bringing back a totally new message that run that people of different races can coexist peacefully.

On February 21, 1965 Malcolm was shot and killed at the ballroom in Manhattan at the age of forty.

In my opinion, the author did a great job. As far as I know, Malcolm X and Alex Haley met a couple times before actually sitting down to writing a book. No wonder the entire work came out amazingly well and outstanding both for black and white communities of America. Disregarding the skin color you can easily distinguish the virtues and simple human features a modern person should have. And there is no place for hatred among those. This is what every high school student should elicit from Malcolm X’s Autobiography written so professionally by Alex Haley. And though some consider him to be a ghostwriter of this book I think it does not really matter in terms of professionalism applied. Since the entire book came out perfectly readable and, moreover, captivating I must admit the absence of poorly written episodes.

Alex Haley had thousands of conversations with Malcolm X, hence the overall product that we can read nowadays gains even more significance as noted from the real character’s words. It is a perfectly depicted life story that stuns and sometimes makes you hold your breath when reading the stories from prison or the character’s revelations. The description by Alex Haley went out vivid and sometimes too real to take your eyes off; therefore you just do not notice its real length until the last page. So, the author showed his utmost in tracing this autobiography and can probably be given the highest appraisal. This autobiography is compelling storytelling by a talented author.

However, there are some aspects I would tend to disagree with. As such, the book describes Malcolm’s hustling, sometimes violently-oriented life standpoints. However, some sources state that he refused carrying a gun, and, in fact, always tried to practice nonviolence. One more: of course, I cannot doubt the sincerity and honesty of such a remarkable figure, but Malcolm X used to give powerful fierce speeches, though never drove those to rebellions against whites. Nonetheless, I have to admit the book helped me comprehending some things about civil activism right eventually. Somehow Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were divided into a good black guy and a bad black guy subconsciously in my head. So, now I have set all priorities, having the precious knowledge of the subject and its various sides. Meaning, Malcolm X’s life story has more ‘layers’, sometimes problematic ones, but he deserves as much honor as anyone else does.

The powerful and emotionally stirring writing style of the book only helps the reader understand the importance of the transcendence of class differences and battles over racial dominance for Malcolm X. Moreover, the autobiography’s writing style helped me get into Malcolm X’s shoes and feel his frustration, anger and despair as if I stood next to him. So did his daughter Attallah Shabazz, I think, when she wrote the foreword placed next to the stamp bearing Malcolm’s likeness. The foreword itself shares common opinion with the American nation that there hardly was a man who impacted the second half of the twentieth century greater than Malcolm X.

The work itself gives us a precious conception of a good autobiography rather than a historical value. After reading this book students acquire a better understanding of racial and cultural diversity problems, namely racism. Of course, the autobiography represents a significant source of historical development of racism in America. Though, I think, that its value is more like an autobiographical narrative of one of the most significant historic figures of the twentieth century.

In order to answer the question if the book justifies the entire idea of an African American literature course, I must admit that everything is not so simple. Once I got to the point of the book where the latter issue is touched upon, everything was absolutely clear. However, my opinion has been changing along with Malcolm’s and the story line development. Namely, the world was, is, and will be diverse. Humanity needs to accept it and exist peacefully on the planet.

References

Haley, Alex, and Attallah Shabazz. The Autobiography of Malcolm X As told to Alex Haley. With a New foreword by Attallah Shabazz. The Ballantine Publishing Group, 1999. Print.

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