Synopsis of "The Autobiography of Malcolm X"

by Victoria Thompson
Malcolm X's life was one of conflict and later, peaceful transition.

Malcolm X's life was one of conflict and later, peaceful transition.

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"The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley" is the true story of Malcolm Little. Malcolm experienced conflicts that helped to shape his ideology and viewpoints during a time when racial segregation and discrimination dominated the country. Malcolm's autobiography portrays the transition that he experienced and the ultimate price he paid.


Malcolm X was born as Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska. He was the seventh child of Earl and Louise Little. His father, a baptist minister, was the target of Ku Klux Klan violence. Malcolm's mother was half white and from the island of Grenada. Malcolm was the couple's lightest child and did not receive beatings from his father like his older siblings. The family moved to Michigan, where white supremacist groups burned the family's home and the father was later murdered. The Little family was denied life insurance, claiming Earl's death was a suicide. Malcolm's family was forced to eat dandelions and ask for welfare. Malcolm's mother was sent to a mental institution, while Malcolm and his brothers and sisters were sent to foster homes.

Young Adult Years

As Malcolm became a teenager, he felt the sting of oppression in school and within society. Malcolm left Michigan and moved to Boston to live with half sister, Ella. Malcolm got a job as a shoe shine boy at the local dance hall and later began to sell marijuana and alcohol. He transformed his appearance by getting a conk hairstyle and wearing zoot suits to fit in with others his age. Malcolm met Laura while dancing at the Roseland. The two competed and won dance competitions. Malcolm later met Sophia, a white woman, who became his girlfriend.

Enters Nation of Islam

Sammy the Pimp befriended Malcolm while Malcolm sold drugs and evaded police officers in Harlem. Sophia, now married, continued visiting Malcolm. Because Malcolm was well known by narcotics officers, he decided to begin robbing homes. Malcolm moved back to Boston with his friend, Shorty, after being threatened by a numbers runner. Malcolm was arrested at a pawn shop for stealing and sentenced to prison for ten years. Malcolm underwent drug withdrawal during his term and was nicknamed "Satan" during solitary confinement. Another prisoner, named Bimbi, helped Malcolm channel his rage and begin reading. Malcolm was introduced to the Nation of Islam by his family during his incarceration and began to follow the principles of Elijah Muhammad. Malcolm wrote to the prophet and prayed daily.

Malcolm's Enlightenment

After his release, Malcolm met Elijah Muhammad and began to recruit other young people to join the Nation of Islam. Malcolm became a prominent speaker and leader within the Nation. It was at this time Malcolm changed his last name from Little to X. Malcolm X developed radical thinking and criticized peaceful minded black leaders. Malcolm's speaking engagements increased while Elijah Muhammad and other followers increasingly became jealous. Malcolm's relationship with the Nation became estranged. He made his hajj to Mecca and became enlightened when he witnessed all races of men coming together in worship. Malcolm changed his militant principles and began to adopt a more peaceful approach to protest. He changed his name to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz.

Malcolm's Assassination

Malcolm traveled around the world to spread his new viewpoint. This angered the Nation of Islam, and on February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem where he was scheduled to make a speech. Two men from the Nation of Islam created a diversion while one man shot Malcolm X at close range with a sawed off shotgun. The other two men rushed to the stage to shoot Malcolm sixteen times. Thousands attended the funeral held at Faith Temple Church of God in Christ. Malcolm's loyal friends buried him.

About the Author

Based in North Carolina, Victoria Thompson has taught middle school for the past 15 years. She holds a Masters of Education in middle school instruction from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She teaches English daily to English as a second language students.

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