This memoir really does not pull any punches. This autobiography as told to Alex Hayley (he wrote Roots) was at times quite brutal in the re-telling. The book showcases Malcolm X's family and how they became separated after the murder of his father. Eventually Malcolm will live in Boston and go to Harlem where he will start to change his views and realize that white Americans exploit poor African Americans while also wanting to be part of the "black" world. Once Malcolm X goes to prison and converts to Islam the book focuses on his rise to prominence in the Nation of Islam and shows how he became closer to the Nation of Islam's leader at the time Elijah Muhammad. As a reader you can start to see the conflict between Malcolm X and other leaders within the Nation of Islam who were becoming jealous of him. After Malcolm X speaks out about the JFK assassination Elijah Muhammad uses it as a pretext to finally get rid of him. The heartbreak by Malcolm X to realize that this man that he really looked up to was not that great of a man was sad.
What was very interesting is that once you have Malcolm X go off on his pilgrimage to Mecca his hard stance against whites begins to shift. When her returns back to the United States he had started to hold meetings for an organization that would be committed to African American unity and that people of any faith could join. He did still exclude whites from becoming members, however, he insisted that white people should create their own organizations and start to change from within.
The writing was great though readers should realize that Malcolm X did not really "write" this book. Instead he was interviewed by Hayley who later went back and wrote it in the first person. Until we get to the epilogue which I thought actually ruined the earlier flow of the book. Hayley I think put too much of himself in that epilogue and we get his impressions and feelings about Malcolm. Going from first person Malcolm X to first person Alex Hayley was too much of a shift.
The ending of course was a foregone conclusion for me as reader. I already knew that Malcolm X was assassinated by Nation of Islam members. It is still unclear today if all of the parties who were part of this conspiracy were properly identified since one of the men who did shoot and kill Malcolm X, Talmadge Haye claims that two other people charged were innocent.
Though I believe in the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it's not hard to see how Malcolm X was so appealing to many African Americans at the time. Being beaten by police (yeah still going on) and being treated like second class citizens and feeling the hostility from others because of the color of your skin you can see why Malcolm X started to feel that there was no way for African Americans and white Americans to peacefully co-exist.
“When I am dead--I say it that way because from the things I know, I do not expect to live long enough to read this book in its finished form--I want you to just watch and see if I'm not right in what I say: that the white man, in his press, is going to identify me with "hate".
He will make use of me dead, as he has made use of me alive, as a convenient symbol, of "hatred"--and that will help him escape facing the truth that all I have been doing is holding up a mirror to reflect, to show, the history of unspeakable crimes that his race has committed against my race.”