The Autobiography Of Malcolm X Book Summary By Alex Haley, Malcolm X

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The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965) is an inspiring and truthful story of one man's transformation from a life of crime, drugs, and hopelessness to a life dedicated to the pursuit of human rights and making sure no one ever had to go through what he experienced.

This book covers all aspects of Malcolm X’s personal growth and development and is a window into his thoughts and beliefs, giving readers insight into his evolution from school dropout to influential leader within the African American community.

Throughout the chapters, it chronicles his struggles and successes against racism while educating readers on the importance of finding one's identity in order to live freely in a world full of oppression.

The Autobiography Of Malcolm X Book

Book Name: The Autobiography of Malcolm X (As told to Alex Haley)

Author(s): Alex Haley, Malcolm X

Rating: 4.7/5

Reading Time: 17 Minutes

Categories: Book Summaries

Author Bio

The Autobiography of Malcolm X was written by, who else, Malcolm X himself.

He is widely regarded as one of the most important African-American activists in history and he famously has a day named after him—Malcolm X day—which is celebrated on May 19 in cities all across the United States.

His story has been brought to life by actors such as Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington in various movies that feature his life and legacy, making sure his voice will never be silenced even after his death.

Now’s your opportunity to hear it straight from the source and understand why Malcolm X was such an influential figure in American civil rights movement.

Get To Know Malcolm X: Understanding The Life And Legacy Of A Civil Rights Icon

Life And Legacy

The Autobiography of Malcolm X gives readers an opportunity to get a first-hand account of this extraordinary man’s life, written in his own words.

From his upbringing and early exposure to the Nation of Islam, to his eventual journey to the Middle East and Africa, readers will gain a clear understanding of why Malcolm X became one of the most influential African-Americans of the twentieth century.

His commitment to standing up for what he believed in – fighting racial inequality and advocating for economic progress through self-suffiency – was courageous and inspiring.

From his journey from being a criminal to becoming an international spokesperson for civil rights, you’ll discover why Malcolm X was such an important figure in history.

With some caution about strong language contained within it, The Autobiography of Malcolm X offers a compellingly personal reminder of one man’s courage, uncompromising leadership and dedication to justice.

The Tragic Roots Of Malcolm X’S Quest For Pride And Identity

Malcolm X lived a life of tragedy.

At just six years old, he lost his father, Reverend Earl Little, after he was brutally beaten and killed in what the police declared an accident.

This left his mother Louise to care for him and seven of his siblings alone—a difficult task for any single parent.

But losing one parent wasn’t enough for young Malcolm: when he was only 12, his already struggling mother was sent away to a state mental hospital.

With her out of their lives, their guardian became the child welfare system—who treated Malcolm and his siblings with no respect or compassion.

At such a young age, Malcolm had already faced immense hardship that included the loss of both parents: the hands-on guidance from his father who took him to Universal Negro Improvement Association meetings, as well as being deprived of the loving bond with his mother who had tried so hard to keep the family together.

Malcolm Realized That It Was Possible To Live Proudly As Himself, Separate From Racism And Prejudice

Malcolm had a hard time in school; after a teacher scolded him for wearing a hat, he pulled a prank on the teacher and was eventually expelled.

This marked the beginning of Malcolm’s rocky school years and exposed him to blatant racism.

He entered junior high and was one of only a few Black students in the school.

He was treated so differently from his white classmates, even being elected as class president, but feeling like he was only seen as a mascot.

Then, that summer after seventh grade he accepted an invitation to visit his half-sister in Roxbury, Boston, and what he saw there changed everything for him.

For the first time Malcolm saw Black people proudly being themselves without having to conform to white standards.

The experience revealed another world to Malcolm; one where Blacks were respected without having to compromise their culture or identity – something that would ultimately shape Malcolm’s life and influence his views about race forever.

Malcolm’s Transformation In Harlem: From Shoeshine Boy To Waiter

Malcolm's Transformation

When Malcolm moved to Roxbury, his first contact was with an old acquaintance of his own who happened to be from Michigan: Shorty.

Shorty took the young man under his wing and exposed him to the more dangerous side of the city; this included a job shining shoes at the renowned Roseland Ballroom.

Not only did he meet great musicians, but he also learned how to “hustle”, providing customers and artists alike with booze, marijuana, or phone numbers for sex workers.

During this time, Malcolm also experimented with alcohol and drugs, as well as anything flashy or fun like dancing.

It was also in Roxbury where Malcolm became acquainted with a black hair-straightening method known as “conking”, where lye is used to straighten curls so it looks “white”.

In time Malcolm would come to realize that people conking their hair was an act of self-degradation, brainwashed by society’s standards.

Malcolm eventually worked various jobs until he got steady work as a porter on trains running between Boston and New York City – giving him his first chance to visit Harlem.

He was immediately enthralled by the place; particularly by a legendary nightclub called The Savoy which was twice the size of Roseland.

Encouraged, Malcolm decided right then and there to make Harlem his home.

Upon moving there in 1942, he became a waiter in Small’s Paradise – another celebrated cultural landmark amongst African Americans in Harlem – officially introducing himself into modern Black culture.

Lessons From A Street Life: How Malcolm X Learned The Harms Of Systemic Racism In Harlem

In the 1940s, after losing his job at Small’s Paradise in Harlem, Malcolm X was exposed to the criminal side of life.

At the suggestion of a friend known as “Sammy the Pimp” he began selling marijuana to make money.

Having befriended several musicians from the Roseland and Savoy nightclubs, Malcolm found them to be reliable customers.

On a good day he could make up to $60 dollars easily.

When police began to suspect drug dealing in Harlem, Malcolm took his business on tour with musicians and kept them supplied while they were away.

He also had to resort to ‘steering’ or escorting white customers to secret locations in Harlem where their sexual needs could be served.

Through these experiences Malcolm saw how white people viewed it as nothing more than a “den of sin”.

All these experiences convinced him that he was headed down a wrong path and his life was about to take a different course.

How Malcolm X’S Near-Death Experience Led To His Spiritual Awakening

Malcolm X’s descent into criminal activities led to his eventual arrest and imprisonment in 1946.

His arrest came after a gambling dispute that left Malcolm facing death threats, which resulted in him fleeing to Boston for safety.

In Boston, he kept hustling and eventually got caught trying to pawn a stolen watch.

The judge, who was irate at Malcolm for conspiring with two white girls, sentenced him to ten years in prison.

It was during this time that something profound happened – a spiritual awakening that changed the life of Malcolm X forever.

An old convict named Bimbi showed him how to command respect through being well-spoken and encouraged Malcolm to read whatever he could get his hands on, from English and Latin dictionaries to philosophy and world history books.

He read so much that it caused astigmatism which required him to wear corrective lenses; but these same books opened up Malcolm’s mind as he embraced the message of the Nation of Islam: reclaiming the identity of African Americans after centuries of tragedy.

It was while in prison that Malcolm had his profound awakening that would lead him down a different path from the one he had journeyed on before.

Malcolm X Proves To Be A Passionate Activist And Public Speaker In Prison Debates

Prison Debates

When Malcolm X left prison in 1952, he was ready to dedicate his life to the Nation of Islam.

During his time in prison, he had the opportunity to hone his public speaking skills by taking part in debates and spreading the message of the Nation of Islam.

In these debates, Malcolm would challenge ideas such as Jesus being a pale, blond, blue-eyed image as well as speaking about the atrocities that white people have committed on nonwhite people around the world.

With these newfound skills, he was eager to serve the Nation when presented with an invitation from its leader Elijah Muhammad.

At dinner with him, Malcolm offered his devotion and services to this cause and soon began actively recruiting members in Detroit.

His popularity among members was quickly noticed by other ministers of the Nation who asked him to speak at their gatherings.

It was here that Malcolm passionately spread Elijah Muhammad’s teachings – which included beliefs such as African-Americans being descendants of African Muslims whose true identities have been taken away by white men.

In doing so, it became clear that Malcolm had become a natural activist and speaker – one who left prison dedicated and devoted to spreading the message of the Nation of Islam.

The Unexpected Path Of Malcolm X From Street Gang Member To National Leader

When Malcolm X joined the Nation of Islam, he was given the last name of X, to show that his true ancestral family name had been forever lost.

He then accepted the role of minister for the organization and began establishing temples around the country.

Everywhere he went, Malcolm drew in new people by talking about a faith that wasn’t a “white man’s religion”.

Soon enough, Malcolm was made the minister of his own temple in New York City.

Throughout this time, Malcolm X gained notoriety as a minister in the Nation of Islam.

After a member was attacked by police without being involved in a crime, Malcolm marched with 50 members of his congregation to the police station and demanded medical attention for Brother Hinton who was covered in blood.

Thanks to this incident and results from helping Brother Hinton successfully sue the city of New York for over $70,000, national attention was brought onto the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X established himself as an influential leader within it.

How Malcolm X’S Words Led To His Falling Out With Elijah Muhammad

As Malcolm X’s fame as a leader in the Nation of Islam increased, he began to receive increasing attention from both the media and the public.

He capitalized on this platform by taking opportunities to spread the message of the Nation of Islam, setting the record straight about its goals and aims, and defending its use of the term “the white devil.” Despite his loyalty to Elijah Muhammad, however, this growing publicity eventually put Malcolm X at odds with the Nation of Islam.

News that two of Elijah Muhammad’s secretaries had filed paternity suits against him caused Malcolm great anguish – it was a betrayal that he could not overcome.

During this time, Malcolm made national headlines once again after commenting on John F.

Kennedy’s assassination; while many praised him for his comments, they did not go over well within the Nation – he was subsequently banned from speaking for 90 days.

For all intents and purposes, it seemed as if Malcolm had become a threat to those within the organization who had grown jealous of his ever-increasing fame.

Malcolm X’s Pilgrimage To Mecca Helps Reaffirm His Spiritual Beliefs And Reject False Prophets

Spiritual Beliefs

When Malcolm X was threatened by his former mentor, he had to make a spiritual journey that would ultimately open his eyes to the true meaning of Muslim brotherhood.

To achieve this, he decided to make the pilgrimage to Mecca—a sacred duty for every Muslim.

The holy city of Mecca was an otherworldly experience for X, who quickly realized that what he had been told about orthodox Islam did not reflect reality.

The display of respect and hospitality from people of all races and backgrounds deeply enlightened him, most notably from blue-eyed, blond-haired folks who would typically be considered white in the US.

At the same time, Malcolm was humbled by the words of Saudi Arabia’s Prince Faisal and inspired by books given to him during his travels.

All of these experiences opened Malcolm’s eyes and heart to true Muslim brotherhood among all people regardless of race or ethnicity.

His newfound outlook could also be felt in a letter he wrote back home to U.S news outlets expressing sheer astonishment at such displays and that he must reconsider any previously held beliefs about racism.

The pilgrimage to Mecca opened up Malcolm’s eyes and set him on a path toward truth and justice for Africans everywhere—not only at home but throughout countries like Beirut, Nigeria, and Ghana where he also visited after his enlightening journey through Mecca and Cairo.

Malcolm X: Spreading The Message Of Antiracism And Antiviolence Through Inclusivity And Unity

When Malcolm X returned to the United States in 1964, he came with a new and powerful message.

Whereas before his primary motivation had been espousing separation between black and white people and believing in the supremacy of the black race, this time around his outlook had changed.

He now believed that white society was at least partially responsible for generations of racism and the mistreatment of people belonging to minority races, creating destitute ghettos that were “sociological dynamite”.

To counteract this unrest, he decided to create a more inclusive message by forming two organizations – Muslim Mosque, Inc and Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU).

The first one was only open to members of his faith, while those from other faiths could join OAAU instead.

His goal was to encourage substantive changes at a sociological level in order to end racial segregation.

Additionally, whereas before he had discouraged people from making an effort to help African American communities (like when he had responded: “Nothing” when asked by a white college girl on what she could do), Malcolm now encouraged constructive efforts like starting antiracist/antiviolence organizations in their own neighborhoods.

Malcolm X’s Tragic Death Came At The End Of A Life Filled With Urgency, Violence, And Hope


Malcolm X knew the possibility of his death was very real, so he was at peace with it.

But the tragedy of February 21, 1965 still shocked many people.

On that day, Malcolm X’s organization was holding a meeting at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City and his wife and children were in attendance.

When Malcolm X walked onto the stage, three gunmen from the Nation of Islam opened fire and killed him almost instantly.

Malcolm’s wife Betty covered their children with her body during the shooting, but afterwards she collapsed next to his body in tears.

His friend Ossie Davis gave a moving funeral eulogy pointing out that Malcolm never associated himself with any violence and instead had a desire to see Black people thrive.

This made his untimely death all the more poignant for many as it was an unnecessary loss of potential for both him and his community.

Wrap Up

The Autobiography of Malcolm X is an inspiring story of transformation and redemption.

It’s a reminder that change is possible no matter the circumstances, and while it may take time and hard work, in the end you can be the person you want to be.

At the heart of this book is Malcolm X’s understanding of himself and the world around him.

He was an individual who had to struggle in order to find clarity, but he didn’t give up.

With his dedication and perseverance, Malcolm showed us all that it’s never too late for redemption.

This book is a testament for anyone still seeking or struggling with their life purpose–or just trying to find peace within themselves.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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