The Autobiography of Malcolm X

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

by Malcolm X

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In the searing pages of this classic autobiography, originally published in 1964, Malcolm X, the Muslim leader, firebrand, and anti-integrationist, tells the extraordinary story of his life and the growth of the Black Muslim movement. His fascinating perspective on the lies and limitations of the American Dream, and the inherent racism in a society that denies its nonwhite citizens the opportunity to dream, gives extraordinary insight into the most urgent issues of our own time. The Autobiography of Malcolm X stands as the definitive statement of a movement and a man whose work was never completed but whose message is timeless. It is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand America.
Praise for The Autobiography of Malcolm X
“Malcolm X’s autobiography seemed to offer something different. His repeated acts of self-creation spoke to me; the blunt poetry of his words, his unadorned insistence on respect, promised a new and uncompromising order, martial in its discipline, forged through sheer force of will.”—Barack Obama, Dreams from My Father

“Extraordinary . . . a brilliant, painful, important book.”The New York Times
“A great book . . . Its dead level honesty, its passion, its exalted purpose, will make it stand as a monument to the most painful truth.”The Nation
“The most important book I’ll ever read, it changed the way I thought, it changed the way I acted. It has given me courage I didn’t know I had inside me. I’m one of hundreds of thousands whose lives were changed for the better.”—Spike Lee
“This book will have a permanent place in the literature of the Afro-American struggle.”—I. F. Stone

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101967805
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/25/2015
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 544
Sales rank: 30,752
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Alex Haley is the world-renowned author of Roots, which has sold six million hardcover copies and has been translated into thirty languages. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Alex Haley died in February 1992.

Read an Excerpt

When my mother was pregnant with me, she told me later, a party of hooded Ku Klux Klan riders galloped up to our home in Omaha, Nebraska, one night. Surrounding the house, brandishing their shotguns and rifles, they shouted for my father to come out. My mother went to the front door and opened it. Standing where they could see her pregnant condition, she told them that she was alone with her three small children, and that my father was away, preaching, in Milwaukee. The Klansmen shouted threats and warnings at her that we had better get out of town because “the good Christian white people” were not going to stand for my father’s “spreading trouble” among the “good” Negroes of Omaha with the “back to Africa” preachings of Marcus Garvey.
My father, the Reverend Earl Little, was a Baptist minister, a dedicated organizer for Marcus Aurelius Garvey’s U.N.I.A. (Universal Negro Improvement Association). With the help of such disciples as my father, Garvey, from his headquarters in New York City’s Harlem, was raising the banner of black-race purity and exhorting the Negro masses to return to their ancestral African homeland—a cause which had made Garvey the most controversial black man on earth.
Still shouting threats, the Klansmen finally spurred their horses and galloped around the house, shattering every window pane with their gun butts. Then they rode off into the night, their torches flaring, as suddenly as they had come.
My father was enraged when he returned. He decided to wait until I was born—which would be soon—and then the family would move. I am not sure why he made this decision, for he was not a frightened Negro, as most then were, and many still are today. My father was a big, six-foot-four, very black man. He had only one eye. How he had lost the other one I have never known. He was from Reynolds, Georgia, where he had left school after the third or maybe fourth grade. He believed, as did Marcus Garvey, that freedom, independence and self-respect could never be achieved by the Negro in America, and that therefore the Negro should leave America to the white man and return to his African land of origin. Among the reasons my father had decided to risk and dedicate his life to help disseminate this philosophy among his people was that he had seen four of his six brothers die by violence, three of them killed by white men, including one by lynching. What my father could not know then was that of the remaining three, including himself, only one, my Uncle Jim, would die in bed, of natural causes. Northern white police were later to shoot my Uncle Oscar. And my father was finally himself to die by the white man’s hands.
It has always been my belief that I, too, will die by violence. I have done all that I can to be prepared.
I was my father’s seventh child. He had three children by a previous marriage—Ella, Earl, and Mary, who lived in Boston. He had met and married my mother in Philadelphia, where their first child, my oldest full brother, Wilfred, was born. They moved from Philadelphia to Omaha, where Hilda and then Philbert were born.
I was next in line. My mother was twenty-eight when I was born on May 19, 1925, in an Omaha hospital. Then we moved to Milwaukee, where Reginald was born. From infancy, he had some kind of hernia condition which was to handicap him physically for the rest of his life.
Louise Little, my mother, who was born in Grenada, in the British West Indies, looked like a white woman. Her father was white. She had straight black hair, and her accent did not sound like a Negro’s. Of this white father of hers, I know nothing except her shame about it. I remember hearing her say she was glad that she had never seen him. It was, of course, because of him that I got my reddish-brown “mariny” color of skin, and my hair of the same color. I was the lightest child in our family. (Out in the world later on, in Boston and New York, I was among the millions of Negroes who were insane enough to feel that it was some kind of status symbol to be light-complexioned—that one was actually fortunate to be born thus. But, still later, I learned to hate every drop of that white rapist’s blood that is in me.)
Our family stayed only briefly in Milwaukee, for my father wanted to find a place where he could raise our own food and perhaps build a business. The teaching of Marcus Garvey stressed becoming independent of the white man. We went next, for some reason, to Lansing, Michigan. My father bought a house and soon, as had been his pattern, he was doing freelance Christian preaching in local Negro Baptist churches, and during the week he was roaming about spreading word of Marcus Garvey.
He had begun to lay away savings for the store he had always wanted to own when, as always, some stupid local Uncle Tom Negroes began to funnel stories about his revolutionary beliefs to the local white people. This time, the get-out-of-town threats came from a local hate society called The Black Legion. They wore black robes instead of white. Soon, nearly everywhere my father went, Black Legionnaires were reviling him as an “uppity nigger” for wanting to own a store, for living outside the Lansing Negro district, for spreading unrest and dissention among “the good niggers.”
As in Omaha, my mother was pregnant again, this time with my youngest sister. Shortly after Yvonne was born came the nightmare night in 1929, my earliest vivid memory. I remember being suddenly snatched awake into a frightening confusion of pistol shots and shouting and smoke and flames. My father had shouted and shot at the two white men who had set the fire and were running away. Our home was burning down around us. We were lunging and bumping and tumbling all over each other trying to escape. My mother, with the baby in her arms, just made it into the yard before the house crashed in, showering sparks. I remember we were outside in the night in our underwear, crying and yelling our heads off. The white police and firemen came and stood around watching as the house burned down to the ground.
My father prevailed on some friends to clothe and house us temporarily; then he moved us into another house on the outskirts of East Lansing. In those days Negroes weren’t allowed after dark in East Lansing proper. There’s where Michigan State University is located; I related all of this to an audience of students when I spoke there in January, 1963 (and had the first reunion in a long while with my younger brother, Robert, who was there doing postgraduate studies in psychology). I told them how East Lansing harassed us so much that we had to move again, this time two miles out of town, into the country. This was where my father built for us with his own hands a four-room house. This is where I really begin to remember things—this home where I started to grow up.”
After the fire, I remember that my father was called in and questioned about a permit for the pistol with which he had shot at the white men who set the fire. I remember that the police were always dropping by our house, shoving things around, “just checking” or “looking for a gun.” The pistol they were looking for—which they never found, and for which they wouldn’t issue a permit—was sewed up inside a pillow. My father’s .22 rifle and his shotgun, though, were right out in the open; everyone had them for hunting birds and rabbits and other game.

What People are Saying About This

I.F. Stone

This book will have a permanent place in the literature of the Afro-American struggle.

Spike Lee

The most important book I'll ever read. It changed the way I felt; it changed the way I acted. It has given me courage that I didn't know I had inside me. I'm one of hundreds of thousands whose life has changed for the better.

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The Autobiography of Malcolm X 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 176 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a high school sophomore that had a research project for my english class. I personally chose Malcolm X because I have always wanted to learn about him and how inspiring he is for people of color that want to stand up for themselves from racism. I thought this book was very helpful with the questions that I had to answer and it was very well written. It told me about his whole life and how he began to become the way he ended up. It talks about from him growing up from an innocent young man living in Lansing, Michigan with a widowed mother, to dropping out of school and hustling on the streets of Chicago and Harlem, then to jail realizing his fate with the  Nation of Islam, and finally to a new leader for the African American race.This book helped me open my eyes on how African Americans  feel/felt and how badly they were treated by white people but they still looked up to them. Since I am part black, this book made me have  some thoughts that I have never had before about his beliefs. More than just a couple of times I agreed with him because I still see the  issues he talks about when some white people are still thinking they're superior to people of color. It has made a huge impact on me because it changed the way I think and the way I act. I very much recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning the true feelings and thoughts of Malcolm X.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Show me a book that should be required reading for every student and I will show you a copy of The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Born in Omaha, Nebraska (a city not really known for its African American culture) Malcolm Little and his family were forced to leave after a confrontation with the KKK. As a young man barely able to read or write, Malcolm becomes a theif, a hustler and eventually a prisoner. While in prison he becomes mesmerized by the teachings of a man called Elijah Mohammed, head of the Nation of Islam, a religious sect of Islam that caters to the plight of African Americans during the mid 20th Century. After reading his way through what was effectively a Ph.D in prison, Malcolm becomes the number two man in the Nation of Islam and the most rhetorical voice of social change in America- an honor that would cause him to be demonized by Whites and Blacks alike. Published posthumously,(Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965 by members of the Nation of Islam who most likely cohorts of the FBI) this book is definitive work on race realtions without it being a text book per se. It also inspired the author, Alex Haley, to write his most famous novel Roots.
Cush More than 1 year ago
This is my favorite book of any genre, both fiction and nonfiction. It is the greatest piece of literature of the 20th Century. It is the greatest piece of African American literature of all time. It gives you a different perspective on politics, crime, religion and history. This is not a piece to which one has to agree. As a matter of fact, it is not a piece by which one has to abide by the standards therein. Rather, this is a work of art that compels to reader to indulge in the lost art of thinking. READ THIS BOOK!
poetontheone on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The autobiography of Malcolm X is an enlightening and moving journey into the mind of one of the most enigmatic and spectacular individuals in American history. The tale of his transformation from hustler to martyr is awe inspiring. The work is a testament ot the power of the human spirit that should be required reading at high schools across the United States.
foof2you on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a powerful and very emotional read. Alex Haley takes the reader inside the life of Malcolm X. One can only wonder what type of leader Malcolm X would have become and if alive today what would he say about the current state of affairs. The changes that Malcolm was making in his life one can only imagine where is life would take him.
alexgalindo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the most powerful pieces of literature I've read. Alex Haley helps us understand this figure of resistance as a man of uncompromising principle, and love. The Autobiography of Malcolm X must be read by anyone serious about understanding the dynamics of the Civil Rights movement in the U.S.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am high school sophomore that chose to read this book for my research project. My teacher recommended this book based on her own personal experience of reading it. It is very detailed and interesting. I knew very little about Malcolm X except what I read in my world history book. I wasn't sure how interested I would be in reading a book that was almost 500 pages but I soon found out that he was a fascinating person and his importance in world history isn't given the significance that it should be given.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a sophomore in high school who was required to read a book for my research project. I chose Malcolm X as the person I wanted to to do my research project on. This book was extremely helpful and it was the only  resource I needed. The book gave an insight on Malcolm X's whole entire life from  start to finish. As a reader I got to know who he really was from his own personal opinions,actions,and thoughts. I learned  about  what he  was like as a seventh grade student at school and what he was like as one of the leaders of The Nation of Islam. If I didn't read this I don't  think I could fully understand Malcolm's choices. His life was so entertaining from beginning to end, that I didn't find a dull moment while reading. To me Malcolm provide to be s very powerful  man. All the things he did and the time he sacrificed was to help others, and his family. None of his actions were selfish and were all to protect and support his rights and the rights of others.This book changed my view on racism and the way I look at people. I highly recommend this book if you are interested in Malcolm X or just want a good read. 
gragonfly More than 1 year ago
...malcom x made a reversal that brought tension into the movement ( nation od islam)...his leader ( elijah. muhammed) felt discomfort / fear that malcolm was going to expose his lessons...almost all of the memebers of the NOI hated malcolm -- why such fear / hate, when IN REALITY, malcolm was only expressing his mind ? it's clear that elijah helped's just an clear ( clearer) that his perception changed ( * the student become clever then the teacher - nothing wrong with that. BUT, whenever the teacher(s) feel discomfort ( by an astute student / sharp reasoning / clever questions etc. u know the type)), one knows that something is WRONG ( * the teacher is hidding something ?)...long story short : malcolm saw what many of the NOI failed to see --- extreme afrocentrism / blacksupremacy ( in essence like the ahyan race)...this book serves well for anyone that's interesting in the careen theories of the NOI. why / how malcolm saw its clear flaws / the trickery of incongruous "leaders" using scipture to further beguile distressed minds...a lucid / heavy read.
LennonFan More than 1 year ago
This book is sure to have a tremendous impact on you.

Growing up in NYC in the 70's, I can remember seeing the so-called "Black Muslims" all over downtown Brooklyn and upper Manhattan. Sometimes they would scare me because they were so militant and angry. But after talking to schoolmates who grew up in that religion, I came to realize why they were so angry. Malcolm X was a fixture of New York culture and yet I had never read his book--until now.

His message of self-sufficiency and pride was timely. The black community needed to hear Malcolm X even if they weren't ready for his message. He articulated frustration without compromise. The best part of the book for me was when he went to Mecca for the Hajj pilgrimage and learned what he called "True Islam." This helped him to widen his perspective and abandon his "reverse racism."

The book is profound and you will be completely absorbed when you read it whether or not you agree with his philosophies. I shuddered at his "White Devil" rhetoric, but I understood where he was coming from. His was a legacy of oppression and self-loathing resulting from generations of racism. It made me sad that he was killed before he was able to integrate his broader version of the Islam faith with his more tolerant views of human rights.

I couldn't sleep after finishing it. It was that profound.
Anonymous 13 days ago
Anonymous 13 days ago
Enjoyed the way it was written.
Anonymous 23 days ago
Super well written
Anonymous 5 months ago
Sahaj 12 months ago
I absolutely could not put this down once I started it. Such a powerful story of a complex man caught up in a complex time, brought too early to his death by those who helped him initially rise. Everyone should read this story, told by the man who lived it. One of the best books I've read.
jddunn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another in an ongoing series of American readings, wherein I'm trying to get a better overall picture of my country's character and history. An impressive and inspiring story of a man who dragged himself up from nothing against great odds; a man of astounding will, personality, integrity, and intelligence, all of which were severely stunted by the society he lived in. It¿s also a good look into the kinds of conditions that foster and perhaps even justify radicalism. I can at least understand, if not necessarily condone, his divergence from King and the integrationist / civil rights movement after reading about what he and his family / friends went through as black Americans. I can see how one could come to the conclusions that he did, given his harrowing experience, even if I don¿t agree in the end. Of course, neither did he, in the end. It¿s too bad he didn¿t live to finish his evolution as Al-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. It would have been a great ending to an already inspiring and gripping story.
PigOfHappiness on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A highly interesting and enlightening read. Thoroughly recommend it to anyone with an interest in the civil rights movement or the mysteries surrounding Malcolm X. Appropriate for college aged and beyond.
Joles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An important book to read, I did not particularly enjoy it. I had to read it for a college class on US Religion. It was powerful but the writing didn't hold my interest.
jcarter4 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Autobiography of Malcolm X is a powerful story and compelling background of one of the greatest African American heroes in history Malcolm X. Throughout the book he talks about the effects of racism throughout the 1930¿s to 1960¿s. Within the story of living in a racist America, Malcolm X recalls a drastic background of drugs, crime, and prison. Starting as a young child Malcolm X, or Malcolm Little at the time, was born in a racist town of Omaha, Nebraska. When he was in middle school him and his family with 7 other brothers and sisters eventually moved to Lansing, Michigan. In Lansing is where Malcolm first discovered his bad side during the tender years of junior high. During his rocky road of moving from living in a home with his family, the murder of his father, and his mom being put into a psychiatric hospital Malcolm is forced to move with his sister Ella in Boston, Massachusetts. There is where he finds his lifestyle of crime and drugs. All of which made him the incredible leader he had progressed to become. His life story showed the triumph that can come from what may seem to be unbearable circumstances. The book reveals how Malcolm X was eventually converted to an Islamic leader and how this changed his ways forever. By the end of the story a person can see how the book illustrated how foreshadowing, transformation, and oppression were used to reveal Malcolm X¿s true character and destiny.In conclusion, all the elements in Malcolm¿s story created one of the great African-American heroes that ever lived. By the end of his transformation Malcolm X had become a great leader not only for teaching the word of Islam, but also encouraging black people to take a stand against racism. Malcolm X gave powerful speech and carried on even after his leader Elijah and fellow Islamic brothers had left him in the dust. He kept a powerful message even to newspaper who called the Islamic black racists, fascists, communists, and supremacists. Malcolm X hid the truth from no one and honesty is a trait that everyone can look up to. Unfortunately, Malcolm X was assassinated on February 21,1965 by his fellow Islamic brothers in New York City. Even though Malcolm X may not physically here The Autobiography of Malcolm X carries the truth and message he wished to deliver for generation to generation.
cestovatela on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a side of the Civil Rights Movement we don't learn about in school. It goes without saying that I admire MLK, but I think I admire Malcolm X even more -- the way he used prison to better himself, his belief in the value of education, and his courage in admitting publicly that he was wrong.
EmScape on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Everyone, regardless or race, should read this book. Growing up in public schools, I don't think Americans are educated enough on the lives of important leaders in civil rights. I really don't even think I was away how very short a time ago it was that this racist culture was prevalent. I know that I am woefully unaware of racial struggles of the past and today, as of course in some parts of the country, not a lot has changed. Malcolm X brought that struggle to the attention of all the people of his era, even when other black leaders were going with the flow. Much of the progress that has been made in the last 30 odd years is due to him. He is an important figure in American history, and his autobiography is entertaining to read as well as educational. You can tell that he is very much trying to tell the truth about himself and not gloss over the unsavory parts, as well as refrain from making himself out to be a bigger hero than he is. A person could learn a lot from Malcolm X.
rizeandshine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The author, Alex Haley, did a wonderful job of weaving together the pieces of remembered thoughts, events and stories from the life of Malcolm X, as told over the years by the man himself. I was not around to read the headlines surrounding this controversial leader, but what I have heard about him painted a picture of little more than an outspoken and influential man spreading a message of revolution and racism. It was interesting to read about his earliest childhood memories of family, school and the various forms of racism he experienced growing up in Lansing, Michigan. He moved to Boston where he grew up quickly and began a downward spiral into a world of crime and drugs and ended up in prison by the age of 21. From my 21st century point of view, it is impossible for me to understand how white America has treated African Americans, especially during the lifetime of Malcolm X. And as a follower of Christ, I can definitely see where the Christian church has failed throughout history, even to this day. But as a white, Christian woman, it was difficult for me to get through the portion of the book where Malcolm becomes a follower of the Black Muslim leader, Elijah Muhammed, and speaks so vehemently against Christianity, whites and to a lesser extend, females. After reading through to the end of the book and seeing how Malcolm evolved after his pilgrimage to Mecca and changed some of his ideas about the white race, I was glad that Alex Haley urged him not to go back and "rewrite" his thoughts and feelings based on hindsight. In this way, we get a better picture of the man and how his attitude and ideals changed over time. The book is written from Malcolm's perspective, but Alex Haley gives more insight into the man in his epilogue. I really wasn't looking forward to the book, which was on my Newsweek's Top 100 Books reading list, as I am more fond of fiction, but I found it to be a quick yet interesting and insightful read.
Elizabeth.Michele on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very interestng read, I enjoyed it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
kidrah on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this back in 12th grade, and it was one of those books that added a whole new "life experience" in my catalog of life experiences. Then, I saw the movie afterwards, and it hits as hard as the book.