Rating 9/10

My Summary:

What a man, what a vivid depiction of the Civil rights movement in America. This book dives into the racism that trickles its way into every aspect of society, especially in the 1950’s and 60’s. The descriptions of the changes that occured in Roxbury and Harlem over the 20th century are eye opening. Malcolm X describes his experience in both the Civil Rights and Black Muslim Movements.


In spite of the psychoanalysis, Malcolm will always be exactly who he is, whether or not we as a society ever succeed in figuring him out. Truth does not change, only our awareness of it.

With the encouragement of his brothers, he began studying the tenets of the Nation of Islam. While the little brothers didn’t adhere to all of the teachings personally, they did believe it was the only current American-based ideology that had the potential to unify black people and teach self- pride the way their childhood affiliation with the Garvey movement had done. Also, the brothers believed that through the Nation of Islam they could finally become part of a larger family that could reunite them once again.

But I would cry out and make a fuss until I got what I wanted. I remember well how my mother asked me why I couldn’t be a nice boy like Wilfred; but I would think to myself that Wilfred, for being so nice and quiet, often stayed hungry. So early in life, I had learned that if you want something, you had better make some noise.

It seemed that everything to eat in our house was stamped Not To Be Sold. All Welfare food bore this stamp to keep the recipients from selling it. It’s a wonder we didn’t come to think of Not To Be Sold as a brand name.

It’s like the Negro in America seeing the white man win all the time. He’s a professional gambler; he has all the cards and the odds stacked on his side, and he has always dealt to our people from the bottom of the deck.

In fact, by then, I didn’t really have much feeling about being a Negro, because I was trying so hard, in every way I could, to be white. Which is why I am spending much of my life today telling the American black man that he’s wasting his time straining to “integrate.” I know from personal experience. I tried hard enough.

I was so fascinated that I went on-I copied the dictionary’s next page. And the same experience came when I studied that. With every succeeding page, I also learned of people and places and events from history. Actually the dictionary is like a miniature encyclopedia. Finally the dictionary’s A section had filled a whole tablet-and I went on into the B’s. That was the way I started copying what eventually became the entire dictionary. It went a lot faster after so much practice helped me to pick up handwriting speed. Between what I wrote in my tablet, and writing letters, during the rest of my time in prison I would guess I wrote a million words.

I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity-because you can hardly mention anything I’m not curious about. I don’t think anybody ever got more out of going to prison than I did. In fact, prison enabled me to study far more intensively than I would have if my life had gone differently and I had attended some college. I imagine that one of the biggest troubles with colleges is there are too many distractions, too much panty-raiding, fraternities, and boola-boola and all of that. Where else but in a prison could I have attacked my ignorance by being able to study intensely sometimes as much as fifteen hours a day?

It has turned out that it’s Johnson in the White House-and black votes were a major factor in his winning as decisively as he wanted to. If it had been Goldwater, all I am saying is that the black people would at least have known they were dealing with an honestly growling wolf, rather than a fox who could have them half-digested before they even knew what was happening.

To speculate about dying doesn’t disturb me as it might some people. I never have felt that I would live to become an old man. Even before I was a Muslim-when I was a hustler in the ghetto jungle, and then a criminal in prison, it always stayed on my mind that I would die a violent death. In fact, it runs in my family. My father and most of his brothers died by violence-my father because of what he believed in. To come right down to it, if I take the kind of things in which I believe, then add to that the kind of temperament that I have, plus the one hundred per cent dedication I have to whatever I believe in-these are ingredients which make it just about impossible for me to die of old age.

Yes, I have cherished my “demagogue” role. I know that societies often have killed the people who have helped to change those societies. And if I can die having brought any light, having exposed any meaningful truth that will help to destroy the racist cancer that is malignant in the body of America-then, all of the credit is due to Allah. Only the mistakes have been mine.

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