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Malcolm X: Home

Last Updated: Aug 25, 2020 9:53 AM

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Above right: Waiting for a press conference to begin, 26 March 1964. Image source: Wikimedia Commons. Image creator: Library of Congress. Image license: Public domain.

The Autobiography  |  Biography & History  |  Speeches & Writings  |  Perspectives

 

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In the searing pages of this classic autobiography, originally published in 1964, Malcolm X, the Muslim leader, firebrand, and anti-integrationist, tells the extraordinary story of his life and the growth of the Black Muslim movement. His fascinating perspective on the lies and limitations of the American Dream, and the inherent racism in a society that denies its nonwhite citizens the opportunity to dream, gives extraordinary insight into the most urgent issues of our own time. This work stands as the definitive statement of a movement and a man whose work was never completed but whose message is timeless. It is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand America.

“Malcolm X’s autobiography seemed to offer something different. His repeated acts of self-creation spoke to me; the blunt poetry of his words, his unadorned insistence on respect, promised a new and uncompromising order, martial in its discipline, forged through sheer force of will.” —Barack Obama

“Extraordinary . . . a brilliant, painful, important book.” The New York Times

“A great book . . . Its dead level honesty, its passion, its exalted purpose, will make it stand as a monument to the most painful truth.” The Nation

“The most important book I’ll ever read, it changed the way I thought, it changed the way I acted. It has given me courage I didn’t know I had inside me. I’m one of hundreds of thousands whose lives were changed for the better.” —Spike Lee

“This book will have a permanent place in the literature of the Afro-American struggle.” —I. F. Stone

Biography & History banner

This dual biography of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King upends longstanding preconceptions to transform our understanding of the twentieth century's most iconic African American leaders. To most Americans, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. represent contrasting ideals: self-defense vs. nonviolence, black power vs. civil rights, the sword vs. the shield. The struggle for black freedom is wrought with the same contrasts. While nonviolent direct action is remembered as an unassailable part of American democracy, the movement's militancy is either vilified or erased outright. In this work, Joseph upends these misconceptions and reveals a nuanced portrait of two men who, despite markedly different backgrounds, inspired and pushed each other throughout their adult lives. This is a strikingly revisionist biography, not only of Malcolm and Martin, but also of the movement and era they came to define.

Payne & Payne Dead Arising cover artThe Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X by Les Payne & Tamara Payne. New York: Liveright, 2020.

Les Payne, the renowned Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative journalist, embarked in 1990 on a nearly thirty-year-long quest to interview anyone he could find who had actually known Malcolm X ― all living siblings of the Malcolm Little family, classmates, street friends, cellmates, Nation of Islam figures, FBI moles and cops, and political leaders around the world. His goal was ambitious: to transform what would become over a hundred hours of interviews into an unprecedented portrait of Malcolm X, one that would separate fact from fiction. The result is this historic biography that conjures a never-before-seen world of its protagonist, a work whose title is inspired by a phrase Malcolm X used when he saw his Hartford followers stir with purpose, as if the dead were truly arising, to overcome the obstacles of racism. Setting Malcolm’s life not only within the Nation of Islam but against the larger backdrop of American history, the book traces the life of one of the twentieth century’s most politically relevant figures “from street criminal to devoted moralist and revolutionary.” In tracing Malcolm X’s life from his Nebraska birth in 1925 to his Harlem assassination in 1965, Payne provides searing vignettes culled from Malcolm’s Depression-era youth, describing the influence of his Garveyite parents: his father, Earl, a circuit-riding preacher who was run over by a street car in Lansing, Michigan, in 1929, and his mother, Louise, who continued to instill black pride in her children after Earl’s death. Filling each chapter with resonant drama, Payne follows Malcolm’s exploits as a petty criminal in Boston and Harlem in the 1930s and early 1940s to his religious awakening and conversion to the Nation of Islam in a Massachusetts penitentiary. With a biographer’s unwavering determination, Payne corrects the historical record and delivers extraordinary revelations ― from the unmasking of the mysterious NOI founder “Fard Muhammad,” who preceded Elijah Muhammad; to a hair-rising scene, conveyed in cinematic detail, of Malcolm and Minister Jeremiah X Shabazz’s 1961 clandestine meeting with the KKK; to a minute-by-minute account of Malcolm X’s murder at the Audubon Ballroom. Introduced by Payne’s daughter and primary researcher, Tamara Payne, who, following her father’s death, heroically completed the biography, this book is a penetrating and riveting work that affirms the centrality of Malcolm X to the African American freedom struggle.

Marable Life of Reinvention cover artMalcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable. New York: Penguin Group, 2011.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for History, this work is the definitive biography of Malcolm X. Hailed as "a masterpiece" (San Francisco Chronicle), the late Manning Marable's acclaimed biography of Malcolm X finally does justice to one of the most influential and controversial figures of twentieth-century American history. Filled with startling new information and shocking revelations, Malcolm X unfolds a sweeping story of race and class in America. Reaching into Malcolm's troubled youth, it traces a path from his parents' activism as followers of Marcus Garvey through his own work with the Nation of Islam and rise in the world of black nationalism, and culminates in the never-before-told true story of his assassination. Malcolm X is a stunning achievement, the definitive work on one of our greatest advocates for social change.

 

Helfer & DuBurke Graphic cover artMalcolm X: A Graphic Biography by Andrew Helfer & Randy DuBurke. New York: Hill & Wang, 2006.

The age of multitasking needs better narrative history. It must be absolutely factual, immediately accessible, smart, and brilliantly fun. Enter Andrew Helfer, the award-winning graphic-novel editor behind Road to Perdition and The History of Violence, and welcome the launch of a unique line of graphic biographies. If a picture is worth a thousand words, these graphic biographies qualify as tomes. But if you're among the millions who haven't time for another doorstop of a biography, these books are for you. With the thoroughly researched and passionately drawn Malcolm X, Helfer and award-winning artist Randy DuBurke capture Malcolm Little's extraordinary transformation from a black youth beaten down by Jim Crow America into Malcolm X, the charismatic, controversial, and doomed national spokesman for the Nation of Islam.

Rickford Betty Shabazz cover artBetty Shabazz: A Remarkable Story of Survival and Faith Before and After Malcolm X by Russell John Rickford. Naperville, Ill.: Sourcebooks, 2003.

The gunmen rose from the crowd and set their sights on Malcolm X. The thunder of shotgun blasts ripped through the ballroom, and Betty Shabazz turned to see her husband float backward, keel over and crash to the ballroom stage. She grabbed her children, hurling them beneath a booth and shielding them with her body while the room erupted into screams and chaos. As she lay there squeezing her family, the Betty Shabazz who was the dutiful and obedient wife of the Civil Rights Movement's most feared leader ceased to be, and the woman who emerged would become one of the greatest heroines of our day. This work is the first major biography of Dr. Betty Shabazz, the unsung and controversial champion of the Civil Rights era. From her early marriage to black liberation's raging voice through her evolution into a powerful and outspoken African-American leader, Betty Shabazz was in constant struggle to bring freedom and justice to her people. Yet, at times her greatest fight was to struggle through tragedy and hold on to her faith amidst the stereotypes forced on her by a culture of racism and the very people she was trying to liberate. With eloquent and intimate prose, Rickford puts you on the scene as a young Betty Sanders is taken in by foster parents after a troubled childhood. You are there as Malcolm X comes home from a hard day of railing against oppression to hug his children, dote on his wife and laugh. You dive under the table at the Audubon Ballroom as bullets strike Malcolm down. You struggle with Betty Shabazz as she fights to raise six girls alone while earning a doctorate. You stand triumphant with her as she claims her own individuality and fights to build respect for Malcolm. And you stand watch with her daughters as Betty passes away, a victim of yet another tragedy, but this time after a life lived full. Rickford has conducted extensive research to compile this biography, interviewing more than seventy of Betty Shabazz's family members, friends, colleagues and contemporaries as well as researching countless records and documents, including recently declassified FBI, CIA and New York Police files. This is the first complete look at the life of Betty Shabazz and a new insight into the man who was known as Malcolm X. This is the story of a strong woman who faced incredible tragedy and emerged triumphant, compassionate and always full of life. In the end, it is the story of a nation torn apart by hatred learning to heal and forgive.

Seventh Child cover artSeventh Child: A Family Memoir of Malcolm X, by Rodnell P. Collins & A. Peter Bailey. Secaucus, NJ: Carol Publishing Group, 2000.

Ella Little Collins saw her brother Malcolm through some of the most significant times of his life, and knew him better than anyone else. Now, for the first time, she shares her poignant, vivid memories of him. Told to her son, Rodnell, to whom Malcolm was a much-loved uncle and mentor, this work contains bitter, haunting, as well as joyful, recollections by two people who knew him intimately in the context of the family. It reveals Malcolm not just as a leader, but also as a brother, cousin, nephew, uncle, father, husband, and friend. It also provides remarkable information about Malcolm's family genealogy that has never before been available to the general public. No other book about Malcolm X -- and there have been dozens -- offers such enlightenment on the man. With rare family photos, including one of Rodnell with Malcolm the night before his assassination, this book adds immeasurably to our knowledge of this great and controversial figure.

Speeches & Writings banner

Malcolm X remains a touchstone figure for black America and in American culture at large. He gave African Americans not only their consciousness but their history, dignity, and a new pride. No single individual can claim more important responsibility for a social and historical leap forward such as the one sparked in America in the sixties. When, in 1965, Malcolm X was gunned down on the stage of a Harlem theater, America lost one of its most dynamic political thinkers. Yet, as Michael Eric Dyson has observed, "he remains relevant because he spoke presciently to the issues that matter today: black identity, the politics of black rage, the expression of black dissent, the politics of black power, and the importance of consolidating varieties of expressions within black communities — different ideologies and politics — and bringing them together under a banner of functional solidarity." This collection contains four major speeches by Malcolm X, including: "Black Man's History," "The Black Revolution," "The Old Negro and the New Negro," and the famous "The Chickens Are Coming Home to Roost" speech ("God's Judgment of White America"), delivered after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Several of the speeches include a discussion with the moderator, among whom Adam Clayton Powell, or a question-and-answer with the audience.

 

In 1964, Malcolm X made two trips to Africa and the Middle East. During those trips, he kept copious notes. This remarkable document, The Diary of Malcolm X El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, 1964, is comprised of those notes, along with editing, annotations, and commentary by editors Herb Boyd and Ilyasah Al-Shabazz. This volume captures Malcolm X in all his complexity, reveals some of his trepidations, and above all, reveals his humanity as he encounters a coterie of dignitaries, world leaders, and ordinary people who were mesmerized by his genius as he was in wonder of the often challenging new cultures he experienced from country to country. Readers will discover how significantly the Diary complements his autobiography, at times filling in the blanks, expanding an incident, and adding context to moments sometimes only mentioned in passing before.

Malcolm X Speaks cover artMalcolm X Speaks: Selected Speeches and Statements by Malcolm X, edited by George Breitman. New York: Grove Press, 1994.

These are the major speeches made by Malcolm X during the last tumultuous eight months of his life. In this short period of time, his vision for abolishing racial inequality in the United States underwent a vast transformation. Breaking from the Black Muslims, he moved away from the black militarism prevalent in his earlier years only to be shot down by an assassin's bullet.

Perspectives banner

Known as 'the angriest black man in America', Malcolm X was one of the most famous activists to ever live. Going beyond biography, this book examines Malcolm X's philosophical system, restoring his thinking to the pantheon of Black Radical Thought. Michael Sawyer argues that the foundational concepts of Malcolm X's political philosophy - economic and social justice, strident opposition to white supremacy and Black internationalism - are often obscured by an emphasis on biography. The text demonstrates the way in which Malcolm X's philosophy lies at the intersection of the thought of W.E.B. Du Bois and Frantz Fanon and is an integral part of the revolutionary politics formed to alleviate the plight of people of African descent globally. Exploring themes of ontology, the body, geographic space and revolution, Black Minded provides a much-needed appraisal of Malcolm X's political philosophy.

Benson Fighting cover artFighting for Our Place in the Sun: Malcolm X and the Radicalization of the Black Student Movement, 1960-1973 by Richard Benson. New York: Peter Lang, 2015.

In this work, Richard D. Benson II examines the life of Malcolm X as not only a radical political figure, but also as a teacher and mentor. The book illuminates the untold tenets of Malcolm X’s educational philosophy, and also traces a historical trajectory of Black activists that sought to create spaces of liberation and learning that are free from cultural and racial oppression. It explains a side of the Black student movement and shift in black power that develops as a result of the student protests in North Carolina and Duke University. From these acts of radicalism, Malcolm X Liberation University (MXLU), the Student Organization for Black Unity (SOBU/YOBU), and African Liberation Day (ALD) were produced to serve as catalysts to extend the tradition of Black activism in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Scholars, researchers, community organizers, and students of African-American studies, American studies, history of education, political science, Pan-African studies, and more will benefit from this provocative and enlightening text.

 

Tuck Night Malcolm X Spoke cover artThe Night Malcolm X Spoke at the Oxford Union: A Transatlantic Story of Antiracial Protest by Stephen Tuck. Oakland, CA: The University of California Press, 2014.

Less than three months before he was assassinated, Malcolm X spoke at the Oxford Union ― the most prestigious student debating organization in the United Kingdom. The Oxford Union regularly welcomed heads of state and stars of screen and served as the training ground for the politically ambitious offspring of Britain’s "better classes." Malcolm X, by contrast, was the global icon of race militancy. For many, he personified revolution and danger. Marking the fiftieth anniversary of the debate, this book brings to life the dramatic events surrounding the visit, showing why Oxford invited Malcolm X, why he accepted, and the effect of the visit on Malcolm X and British students. Stephen Tuck tells the human story behind the debate and also uses it as a starting point to discuss larger issues of Black Power, the end of empire, British race relations, immigration, and student rights. Coinciding with a student-led campaign against segregated housing, the visit enabled Malcolm X to make connections with radical students from the Caribbean, Africa, and South Asia, giving him a new perspective on the global struggle for racial equality, and in turn, radicalizing a new generation of British activists. Masterfully tracing the reverberations on both sides of the Atlantic, Tuck chronicles how the personal transformation of the dynamic American leader played out on the international stage.

Abernethy Iconography cover artThe Iconography of Malcolm X by Graeme Abernethy. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2013.

From Detroit Red to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, the man best known as Malcolm X restlessly redefined himself throughout a controversial life. His transformations have appeared repeatedly in books, photographs, paintings, and films, while his murder set in motion a series of tugs-of-war among journalists, biographers, artists, and his ideological champions over the interpretation of his cultural meaning. This book marks the first systematic examination of the images generated by this iconic cultural figure — images readily found on everything from T-shirts and hip-hop album covers to coffee mugs. Graeme Abernethy captures both the multiplicity and global import of a person who has been framed as both villain and hero, cast by mainstream media during his lifetime as "the most feared man in American history," and elevated at his death as a heroic emblem of African American identity. As Abernethy shows, the resulting iconography of Malcolm X has shifted as profoundly as the American racial landscape itself. Abernethy reveals that Malcolm X himself was keenly aware of the power of imagery to redefine identity and worked tirelessly to shape how he was represented to the public. His theoretical grasp of what he termed "the science of imagery" enabled him both to analyze the role of representation in ideological control as well as to exploit his own image in the interests of black empowerment. This provocative work marks a startling shift from the biographical focus that has dominated Malcolm X studies, providing an up-to-date — and comprehensively illustrated — account of Malcolm's cultural afterlife.


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