Cultural and Ethnic Studies Autobiography
Haley, A., & Malcolm, X. (1965). The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York, NY: Grove Press.
CHAPTER 1 & 6
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The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley
The different locations that Malcolm lived in during his childhood days influenced many of his decisions for much later in his life. The various experiences taught him various things, both positive and negative, that would later influence most of his decisions later in life. He lived in various places before moving to Harlem, which includes Milwaukee, Lansing, and Michigan. He left the latter state to a county two miles outside Lansing town before migrating to live with the Gohannases (Haley &X, 1965). In all these locations, Malcolm and his family went through difficult experiences that shaped their outlook of life. Mostly, they exposed him to the reality of the racial discrimination that blacks in America were being subjected to, thereby contributing significantly to his decision to join racial politics.
Garveyism played an important role in Malcolm’s life because it planted the seeds of his political views that were proliferated later in life by difficult experiences. Although it can be viewed to have influenced his political views, Garveyism did not have a direct impact on his approach to activism later in life. Malcolm’s decision to move to Harlem might have been influenced by Garvey’s teachings, but it was triggered by joblessness after he was fired for insubordination at the railroad, after which time he had to go to Harlem to look for employment.
From the autobiography, it is evident that racism was very rampant, and it was being practiced openly in Lansing and Harlem. Many atrocities and injustices against the black population were being perpetrated openly. Lawlessness was also common in the two towns. For example, Malcolm’s father, Earl Little, was killed by white supremacists, and the insurance provider refused to pay his family the checks, claiming that he had committed suicide (Haley &X, 1965). Malcolm’s experiences are a reflection of what the African Americans were going through at the time.
Malcolm’s personality and career would have been much different if certain important events in his life had been different and if he could have made certain key decisions differently. Most of his experiences and situations aroseas a result of those decisions. For example, most of his troubles came about when he decided to join the underworld street life.The key events that impacted his personal development include the world war and the rise of Islamic movements that pushed for the separation of races.
The power of a name and the values associated with it cannot be overlooked. In the history and the growth of black power movement, the term used to describethe black people influenced the political approaches used during the period. Mostly, the black people were referred to as black, Negroes, or Afro-Americans (Haley &X, 1965). These terms brought a kind of identity and unity among the blacks, and this inspired them to use diverse strategies in fighting white supremacyso as to regain their identity lostthrough hundreds of years of slavery.
Malcolm was given many names by his community, and he used various aliases throughout his life. For instance, the aliases he used in Harlem becomes important for his survival, especially when he joined the elites of Harlem’s underworld and was carrying out various crimes. Malcolm’s real name at birth was Malcolm Little. Little was his ‘slave name’ because he was born to descendants of slavery, but he later dropped it. When he joined the Nation of Islam, he adopted the name Malcolm X, which he was to become famous with throughout his life. Later on, he adopted the name El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz after converting to traditional Islam.
Haley, A.&X, Malcolm. (1965). The autobiography of Malcolm X. New York, NY: Grove Press.
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