The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley

I am not a racist in any form whatever. I don’t believe in any form of racism. I don’t believe in any form of discrimination or segregation. I believe in Islam. -Malcolm X

Amazon.com Review

Malcolm X’s searing memoir belongs on the small shelf of great autobiographies. The reasons are many: the blistering honesty with which he recounts his transformation from a bitter, self-destructive petty criminal into an articulate political activist, the continued relevance of his militant analysis of white racism, and his emphasis on self-respect and self-help for African Americans. And there’s the vividness with which he depicts black popular culture–try as he might to criticize those lindy hops at Boston’s Roseland dance hall from the perspective of his Muslim faith, he can’t help but make them sound pretty wonderful. These are but a few examples. The Autobiography of Malcolm X limns an archetypal journey from ignorance and despair to knowledge and spiritual awakening. When Malcolm tells coauthor Alex Haley, “People don’t realize how a man’s whole life can be changed by one book,” he voices the central belief underpinning every attempt to set down a personal story as an example for others. Although many believe his ethic was directly opposed to Martin Luther King Jr.’s during the civil rights struggle of the ’60s, the two were not so different. Malcolm may have displayed a most un-Christian distaste for loving his enemies, but he understood with King that love of God and love of self are the necessary first steps on the road to freedom. –Wendy Smith

Review

Biography, published in 1965, of the American black militant religious leader and activist who was born Malcolm Little. Written by Alex Haley, who had conducted extensive audiotaped interviews with Malcolm X just before his assassination in 1965, the book gained renown as a classic work on black American experience. The Autobiography recounts the life of Malcolm X from his traumatic childhood plagued by racism to his years as a drug dealer and pimp, his conversion to the Black Muslim sect (Nation of Islam) while in prison for burglary, his subsequent years of militant activism, and the turn late in his life to more orthodox Islam. — The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature
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