Study Guide

The Autobiography of Malcolm X Summary

By Malcolm X and Alex Haley

The Autobiography of Malcolm X Summary

The trouble starts before Malcolm is even born, when the KKK pays a visit to his pregnant mom. It's not surprising that his parents decide to get out of town once he's born, but that's not enough to keep them safe. When Malcolm is only six years old, the Black Legion kills his father.

This is just the start of the trouble. Life becomes very hard for Malcolm and his family because his father was the main breadwinner. His mom tries her best to keep the family together. But when her best efforts don't work out, she has a mental breakdown.

The whole Little family is broken apart. Malcolm's only a little kid, so he doesn't really get the impact of what's going on. But he does know that he gets to go live with a family that has tons of food to eat.

Everything's going more or less okay until Malcolm gets in trouble at school. So now Malcolm is sent to a detention home, which is not as bad as you'd think. Everyone, even the white people, seems to like Malcolm. Of course, they do say racist things in front of him all the time, but he ignores that.

Then he meets his half-sister Ella. She is the most impressive person he has ever met in his entire life. And she lives in the big city: Boston. One day Malcolm goes to visit her there, and it's like his life is changed—he has to move.

For the first couple of weeks in Boston, Malcolm is totally a country bumpkin gawking at the big-city. Even though Ella wants to hang out with respectable upper class black people, Malcolm falls in with a guy named Shorty in the bad part of town. Yeah, she's not particularly happy about that.

Ella tries to keep Malcolm out of trouble and gets him a job on the railroad. It doesn't work, but it does give him the opportunity to visit Harlem. If he thought Boston was awesome, his mind is completely blown by Harlem. Looks like it's time to move again.

In Harlem, Malcolm basically meets everyone on the Who's Who list of black entertainers. But he's still broke. It's not until he gets a job at a bar that he really starts to integrate into the community. That's also when he gets a job on the gambling market .

That's how he meets West Indian Archie, which wouldn't be a problem if West Indian Archie didn't want to kill Malcolm.

After an almost deadly standoff, Malcolm goes to Boston to get away from the situation. While he's there, Malcolm's drug habit goes out of control. A drug habit can be pretty expensive, so he figures out a way to fund his addiction: become a thief. Everything goes great. Well, at least until he gets caught. Whoops.

While serving a 10-year sentence, Malcolm meets a guy named Bimbi. Malcolm is super impressed by how he commands respect without even using physical threats. So Malcolm starts to read and write so that he can be just like Bimbi.

In 1948 Malcolm's brother Reginald tells him to stop eating pork and smoking cigarettes. Malcolm thinks that this is a way to get out of jail, so he does it, but later Reginald reveals that it is the first step in becoming a member of the Nation of Islam.

By the time that he gets out of prison, Malcolm is an entirely different man.

He changes his name to Malcolm X instead of Malcolm Little, and becomes a minister at a Nation of Islam Temple.

Eventually Malcolm's up in the ranks of the Nation of Islam because of his work and becomes Elijah Muhammad's right-hand man. Everything seems to be going great for Malcolm. He even gets married. What else could he want?

Then something serious happens. A nation of Islam member named Johnson Hinton is assaulted by the police, and a group of Nation of Islam members come to demand he be taken to hospital. This scares everybody so much that it catapults the Nation of Islam onto the national stage.

From then on Malcolm is constantly talking to reporters, newscasters, and all kinds of media about Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam. As more and more responsibility falls to Malcolm, his face appears even more often in papers and on TV. You would think that's a good thing, but people start getting jealous.

In 1963 it's revealed that Elijah Muhammad is guilty of adultery and has several children out of wedlock. It's a huge scandal and Malcolm doesn't even want to believe it at first. Soon after the scandal, John F. Kennedy is assassinated. Malcolm gives an opinion on the situation even though he was told not to, and he is silenced for 90 days. Eventually, he realizes that it's not going to be just 90 days. He's basically been kicked out of the community.

He almost goes insane. He loved Elijah Muhammad! He would do anything for him! And now he is kicked out of the only community that he knew.

Eventually Malcolm decides what he must do. He's going on a hajj. Ella lends him the money and Malcolm has one of the most enlightening experiences of his life going to Mecca. He realizes that not all white people are evil and that Africans believe that they share the same goals as African Americans.

When Malcolm returns to the United States, his entire worldview is changed. But the media doesn't care. They keep saying that he hates white people, and is violent.

But Malcolm doesn't care. He's trying his best to change the position of people of color in the United States and throughout the world. The book ends with Malcolm saying that he knows he will die soon and that he's ready to die.

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