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Free Study Guide-The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X-Free Notes
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Chapters 5,6,7, & 8

Summary

In the following chapters Malcolm X narrates his experiences on the streets of Harlem as a pimp and a notorious drug peddler wanted by the police. When Ella learns about Sophia, she is extremely annoyed with Malcolm. Malcolm had anticipated this. For his sister, who was an extremely proud and independent black woman would never accept Sophia. Therefore he leaves Ella's house in Boston and shifts into Shorty's apartment. He does this after he gets a new job. He gets a job of a busboy at the Parker House in Boston. Malcolm again leaves this job to take up a railroad job (when the Second World War is on). Here, he travels four hours between Boston and New York, on the New Haven and Hartford's Yankee clipper, selling sandwiches.

Though the job gives him an opportunity to visit New York, he gets rather irritated with the rude behavior of the passengers in the train. Soon, he begins to talk back and even gets into arguments with them. When the officers in charge hear of this, they warn him to stop. But the complaints continue until Malcolm is fired from the job.

Malcolm goes back to his hometown for a visit. Here, he meets Mrs. Swerlin and his siblings. He also pays a visit to Shorty's mother. The small town of Lansing is rather shaken by Malcolm's 'conk' and bright colored 'zoot' suits. The local kids are so impressed by his slang language, his appearance, and his dancing that they ask him for autographs.

Leaving Lansing totally shell-shocked, Malcolm returns to New York to find a new job. This time he joins a train-the 'Silver Meteor'- that runs between Petersburg and Miami. His job is to see that the passengers are comfortable, to see that the beds, cushions, etc. are clean and comfortable. Here too, his intolerant behavior towards the demanding and often rude passengers eventually costs him his job.

Malcolm now gets the job of a day waiter at 'Small's Paradise'- a restaurant/bar in Harlem. 'Small's Paradise' is owned by Ed Small and is an extremely popular joint in Harlem. Here he learns about the history of Harlem through the customers, cooks, and bartenders.


To Malcolm's surprise, he learns that Harlem hasn't always been a community of blacks. It was first a Dutch settlement. Then many poor immigrants arrived from Europe. The Dutch settlers moved away from them and Harlem became an all-European (primarily German) settlement.

Then the Irish arrived. They were fleeing the potato famine back in Ireland. The Germans left Harlem to be away from the Irish. The Italians were the next to arrive and the Irish fled away from them. The Italians lived in Harlem until the Jews came. The Italians left Harlem to be away from the Jews. Now all these immigrants are moving away from Harlem to escape the descendants of the very Afro-Americans who had helped them to unload the immigrant ships.

Although, negroes had stayed in New York since as far back as 1683, they lived in ghettos scattered in several parts of the city. It was only in 1910 that one or two black families got an apartment in Harlem. And then the Jews began leaving the area. Soon Harlem became what it is at present i.e. in the 1940's - virtually all black.

While working at Small's, Malcolm had moved into a new apartment. This apartment was situated in a building where several prostitutes lived. Malcolm learned a lot about the kind of customers who came to these prostitutes. He also learned that marital discord and lack of communication between a husband and wife was largely responsible for the men going to prostitutes.

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