Study Guide

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

By Malcolm X and Alex Haley

The Autobiography of Malcolm X Introduction

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.

What is The Autobiography of Malcolm X About and 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.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X Resources

WEBSITES

The Super Duper Official Website
In case you were bewildered by all the Malcolm X websites out there, this one won't lead you wrong.

Malcolm's Academic Side
This Columbia University site even has extra readings about Malcolm X! You know, if you are interested in that stuff.

Malcolmology
Prepare to have your mind blown about everything you've just read with the website of this new biography.

MOVIE OR TV PRODUCTIONS

A Spike Lee Joint
The most famous depiction of Malcolm X's life has Denzel Washington in a flaming red soot suit. What more reason do you need to watch it?

HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS

What About Cake? Popcorn?
Malcolm X's famous Ballot or the Bullet speech asks us to make a very important choice.

Pan-Africa A-GoGo
Malcolm X explains his Pan-Africanism and other views in this OAAU founding speech.

Off With His Head!
How could you, Philbert? You shouldn't write articles denouncing your own brother.

VIDEO

He Sure Had A Lot Of Friends
This site will fulfill all of your needs for videos of friends and scholars talking about Malcolm X.

It's Wilfred And Philbert!
If you ever wanted to know what it's like to be Malcolm X's brother, here's your chance.

By Any Means Necessary
Watch this video to see Malcolm X in action speaking to reporters.

AUDIO

The Re-Autobiography Of Malcolm X
NPR does an interview with Manning Marables to find out about his version of the Malcolm X story.

All Malcolm, All The Time
In case you wanted a giant collection of audio recordings featuring Malcolm X's awesome literary skills, we have you covered.

IMAGES

Yes, Even Civil Rights Activists Were Once Babies
OMG he was so cute! We mean, look at this collection of photos from Malcolm X's life.

Mug Shot
Why doesn't Malcolm X look a little upset to be arrested in this picture? We've never seen such a happy mug shot.