“The Autobiography of Malcolm X” by Alex Haley
“We're not Americans. We're Africans who happen to be in America. We were kidnapped and brought here against our will from Africa. We didn't land on Plymouth Rock--that rock landed on us.” (Lord, Thornton, and Bodipo-Memba, 1992)
Words like those above would engrave Malcolm X into the minds of Americans from all racial backgrounds and socio-economic classes. Malcolm X was certainly not one to mince words. America would come to remember him as “The Hate That Hate Produced”, the title of a 1959 CBS documentary narrated by Mike Wallace which focused on Malcolm’s involvement in what was perceived as the “rise of black racism” (Lord, Thornton, and Bodipo-Memba, 1992).
In “The Autobiography of Malcolm X”, Alex Haley presents a different version of Malcolm X than what we are so used to seeing. We meet Malcolm, Malcolm Little, in his teenage years. Instead of his characteristic suit and tie of later years he is decked out in the Afro and clothes of the hipsters. He speaks the slang that was frequently heard on the street and hesitates little before engaging in petty theft or other illicit activities. While Malcolm would have us believe that the young Malcolm Little was a separate being from the man we would come to know as Malcolm X, in reality the younger Malcolm was just a shadow of the older Malcolm. In many ways the younger Malcolm was more resistant to the dominant white status quo than the older Malcolm would be.
We learn in this book that Malcolm was the son of a Baptist minister. Although he was schooled in religion under the careful teachings of his father, he rejected religion while still quite young. His reasoning? The injustices dealt him by white Christians. Leaving the pews of the church he entered the world of the street hoodlum where he would exist until his arrest and prosecution for armed robbery at age twenty (Allah, 1995). He recalls the 1946 crime in “The Autobiography of Malcolm X”:
"I had put a stolen watch into a jewelry shop to replace a broken crystal," he said. "Two days later things fell apart when I went to pick it up." (Allah, 1995, PG).
Malcolm recalls that he was armed when he went into the shop and that an undercover policeman was waiting in quiet for him. Rather than drawing his gun, Malcolm surrendered it without incident to the officer. He didn’t try to flee or to fight back as he was arrested. He pleaded guilty to numerous burglaries in the area and was eventually sentenced, along with an accomplice, to six to eight years in New York’s maximum- security prison in Boston’s Charlestown district (Allah, 1995).
It would be while he was...