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Malcom x

Discussion in 'International Forum' started by thinka, Sep 6, 2012.

  1. t

    thinka JF-Expert Member

    Sep 6, 2012
    Joined: Aug 1, 2011
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    Malcolm X (1925 – 1965) was born as Malcolm
    Little in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1925. His father was
    a Baptist minister and a strong devotee of the
    Black leader Marcus Garvey. Garvey’s message, as
    many readers will be familiar, was that Black
    people in America would never be able to live in
    peace and harmony with white Americans and
    their only hope of salvation was to move as a
    people back to their roots in Africa. Malcolm’s
    father died when he was six and his mother was
    put in a mental home when he was about twelve.
    As a result, his many brothers and sisters were
    split up and put into different foster homes.
    Malcolm left school early and eventually drifted
    North and finally settled in Harlem, New York, on
    his own, at the age of 17.
    In Harlem, he soon slipped into a life of crime. He
    became involved in hustling, in prostitution, in
    drug dealing. He became a cocaine addict and a
    burglar. Finally, at the ripe old age of 19, he was
    arrested and sentenced to 10 years
    It was while he was in prison that his whole life
    changed. He first learned of the existence of the
    Honourable Elijah Mohammed and of the
    movement known as the Black Muslims from his
    brothers and sisters outside the prison. They had
    become converts to the movement and asked
    Malcolm to write to Elijah Mohammed. In Chapter
    11 of his autobiography, Malcolm writes that “at
    least twenty-five times I must have written that
    first one-page letter to him, over and over. I was
    trying to make it both legible and
    understandable. I practically couldn’t read my
    handwriting myself; it shames me even to
    remember it. My spelling and my grammar were
    as bad, if not worse”. This chapter in his
    autobiography is extremely moving as it
    documents a man’s desperate pursuit of an
    Homemade education
    Malcolm became a letter writer and as a result he
    says that he “stumbled upon starting to acquire
    some kind of homemade education”. He became
    extremely frustrated at not being able to express
    what he wanted to convey in letters that he
    wrote. He says that “in the street I had been the
    most articulate hustler out there … But now,
    trying to write simple English, I not only wasn’t
    articulate, I wasn’t even functional”. His ability to
    read books was severely hampered. “Every book I
    picked up had few sentences which didn’t
    contain anywhere from one to nearly all of the
    words that might have been in Chinese”. He
    skipped the words he didn’t know and so had
    little idea of what the books said.
    He got himself a dictionary and began
    painstakingly copying every entry. It took him a
    day to do the first page. He would copy it all out
    and then read back aloud what he had written.
    He began to remember the words and what they
    meant. He was fascinated with the knowledge
    that he was gaining. He finished the A’s and went
    on to the B’s. Over a period of time he finished
    copying out the whole dictionary. Malcolm
    regarded the dictionary as a miniature
    encyclopedia. He learned about people and
    animals, about places and history, philosophy and
    As his word base broadened, he found that he
    could pick up a book “and now begin to
    understand what the book was saying”. He says
    that “from then until I left that prison, in every
    free moment I had, if I was not reading in the
    library, I was reading in my bunk. You couldn’t
    have gotten me out of a book with a wedge”.
    He preferred to read in his cell but one of the
    problems he had was that at 10 o’clock each
    night when ‘lights out’ was called he found that it
    always seemed to coincide with him in the middle
    of something engrossing. Fortunately, there was a
    light on the landing outside his particular cell and
    once his eyes got accustomed to the glow, he
    was able to sit on the floor by the cell door and
    continue his reading. He found that the guards
    would come around once every hour so that
    when he heard their footsteps approaching, he
    would rush back to his bunk until they had gone
    past and pretend to be asleep. As soon as they
    had gone, he would be back by the door reading.
    This would continue until three or four every
    morning. He says that “three or four hours of
    sleep a night was enough for me. Often in the
    years in the streets I had slept less than that”.
    Malcolm read and read and read. He devoured
    books on history and was astounded at the
    knowledge he obtained about the history of black
    civilizations throughout the world. He read books
    by Gandhi on the struggle in India, he read about
    African colonization and China’s Opium Wars. He
    found within the library’s collection some bound
    pamphlets of the Abolitionist Anti-Slavery Society
    and was able to read for himself descriptions of
    atrocities committed against the slaves and of the
    degradations suffered by his forbears. “I never will
    forget how shocked I was when I began reading
    about slavery’s total horror … Book after book
    showed me how the white man had brought
    upon the world’s black, brown, red and yellow
    peoples every variety of the sufferings of
    exploitation”. His reading was not limited to
    history, however. He read about genetics and
    philosophy. He read about religion.
    He relates that “ten guards and the warden
    couldn’t have torn me out of those books … I
    have often reflected upon the new vistas that
    reading opened to me. I knew right there in
    prison that reading had changed forever the
    course of my life”.
    Malcolm went on to become a major figure in the
    fight against racism in the United States. He
    became a dynamic spokesman for the Black
    Muslims. He was feared by many, he was
    respected by many.
    He never stopped wanting to learn. Just before
    his death in 1965, he maintained that one of the
    things he most regretted in his life was his lack of
    an academic education. He stated that he would
    be quite willing to go back to school and continue
    where he had left off and go on to take a degree.
    “I would just like to study. I mean ranging study,
    because I have a wide-open mind. I’m interested
    in almost any subject you can mention”.
    When he left the Black Muslims and formed his
    own organization, one of the roles he performed
    was that of a teacher. He ran a regular class for
    young people where he told them “We have got
    to get over the brainwashing we had … get out of
    your mind what the man put in it … Read
    everything. You never know where you’re going
    to get an idea. We have to learn how to think …”