Summary of the Book "Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary"

by Robyn Lynne Schechter

Malcolm X wrote his autobiography with the help of famed author Alex Haley and also allowed books of his speeches and writings to be published. Two books under the title, "Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary" have been published -- a collection of primary materials and a children's book.


Malcolm X was born on February 21, 1925, in Omaha, Nebraska. He is best known as the one-time member of the Nation of Islam who spent his life advocating for African-American rights. He eventually discontinued his affiliation with the controversial group because he believed its religious tenants prevented the organization from reaching its goals. After leaving the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X traveled to Mecca, a trip that had a profound effect on his views and changed him from a separatist to an integrationist. Sadly, Malcolm X had limited time in which to put his new views to work. He was assassinated while speaking onstage in New York City on February 21, 1965, at the age of 39.


"Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary" is a compilation of speeches and writings by Malcolm X as well as an interview and a letter that detail his transformation on several of the most pressing and polarizing social issues of the time. Edited by George Breitman and published in 1970, its title stems from a speech given by Malcolm X in 1964, the year before he was assassinated, in which he declared that African-Americans would secure their freedom "by any means necessary," leaving open any tactic, including violence, to ensure equality and civil rights without relying on the political process to achieve these goals.

Children's Book

A children's book under a similar title was published in 1994 by Walter Dean Myers. Appropriate for sixth, seventh and eighth graders, this version introduces middle school readers to Malcolm X in a biographical and informational format. This version of "By Any Means Necessary" is distinguishable from Breitman's version as his uses primary materials in total and lacks analysis.


From 1963 to 1965, Malcolm X penned his autobiography with the help of "Roots" author, Alex Haley. The book was based on interviews that Haley conducted with Malcolm X; Haley would write down the conversations while Malcolm X would edit and approve the final version. Published in 1965, the autobiography was instantly declared an important book and remains so to present day. In 1992, director Spike Lee used the book to produce the film "Malcolm X," starring Denzel Washington. The movie ends with actual footage of Malcolm X saying, "By any means necessary."

About the Author

Robyn Lynne Schechter is a freelance writer currently living in Los Angeles, Calif. She has been an online contributor since 2007 on, covering branding developments in the fashion, music, sports and entertainment industries. Schechter graduated from Hood College with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and is also a graduate of Albany Law School.

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