© 2014 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

by Malcolm X and Alex Harvey

The Autobiography of Malcolm X Introduction

In A Nutshell

In the world where black people are treated as second-class citizens, one nation is torn apart by strife. How will it end? Who will help them? One man, two names: Malcolm X.

We read that in our best superhero movie trailer voice—did you? With the number of times that Malcolm X narrowly avoided death and fought the bad guys, it's not too much of a stretch to think about him as a superhero. Only, unfortunately, he wasn't as bulletproof as Superman.

Instead of coming from the planet Krypton, Malcolm X was born in Omaha, Nebraska. As he grew older, Malcolm X became known as the face of the Nation of Islam and one of the most vocal black rights activists. Those who loved him said he called out racism as he saw it. Those who hated him claimed he was violent and preached black racism. Either way, both sides couldn’t tear their eyes off of Malcolm X.

So when The Autobiography of Malcolm X hit the shelves just after his assassination, people rushed to buy it. Malcolm X was always larger-than-life, and this book provided a peek into the humanity of this superhero like man. It was an instant hit. The New York Times called it extraordinary and important, while Time magazine said it was one of the 10 nonfiction books you had to read. But it wasn't just a critical hit. It influenced a generation of African American thinkers like bell hooks, who credited it with radicalizing her philosophy.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X is the first of Malcolm X's posthumous works, and the only one that's not a collection of speeches. It has sold millions of copies (unfortunately for Doubleday publishers, who chickened out on publishing the book) and has been made into dozens of movies and TV shows. Some scholars are starting to question just how factually correct the autobiography is, since it seems that Malcolm X might have made his life story a little more dramatic than it actually was. But despite that, the text endures. The Autobiography of Malcolm X is still a literary classic.

 

Why Should I Care?

When it comes to a book about a human rights activist, there are a billion reasons to care—but we want to take a look at something more personal.

There is always time for change. Who would've thought that a little kid from the country who bounced around between foster homes, detention centers, and jails would have done anything with his life? Based on his history, we might have guessed that Malcolm X lived a life of crime until he died in a gunfight. But that didn't happen. He changed.

You can probably think of a million things that you want to change in your life. Some of them probably seem impossible. But that's okay. If The Autobiography of Malcolm X teaches us anything, it's that there is time for you to change your life as long as you're not dead. If this little kid from Nebraska could do it, then so can you.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement