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Free Study Guide-The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X-Free Notes
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Chapters 14 & 15

Summary

These two chapters deal with the growing media attention that the Black Muslims begin to receive. Besides, as the media attention grew, Malcolm had to counter several ideas that liberals, the press, as well as other black activists were spreading.

During the period 1959-60 the Nation of Islam became the focus of media attention in the U.S. Louis Lomax, a white journalist approached Malcolm to make a documentary film on the Nation of Islam. Dr. C. Eric Lincoln began writing a book on the Black Muslims around the same time. The book made the Nation extremely popular in America. Malcolm had been writing columns in various newspapers. This experience gave him a working knowledge of how a newspaper is brought out. He founded a paper called 'Muhammad speaks.' This newspaper, which was sold on street corners all over the country, helped build a wide circulation for it.

Although both the book and the T.V. documentary brought the organization into national prominence it gave, according to Malcolm, a negative picture of the organization. Instead of focussing on the positive work of the Nation, where several black youth from the ghettos who were into drugs and crime were being reformed, the TV program called 'The Hate that Hate Produced', highlighted the anti-white, separatist ideas of the organization. Even the reviews on Eric Lincoln's book highlighted the Nation's militant, religious and anti-white ideas. The constructive work of the Nation, which involved reforming drug addicts and former convicts, was totally ignored.

During the years 1959-1961, Malcolm became the chief spokesperson for the Nation. But whenever he met the media, he always gave credit to Mr. Elijah Muhammad. His fiery speeches made him more famous than the founder-Elijah. As Elijah became physically incapable to manage the organization due to frequent illness, Malcolm X was trusted with more responsibility. For instance, he was given a free hand to handle the press and other meetings at universities, college's etc, the way he wanted to.


Due to his increased popularity, Malcolm realized that there were ministers who were jealous of him. However he didn't let it affect him for he knew that Elijah Muhammad had confidence in him. What he did not realize then was that someday this jealousy would affect Mr. Muhammad too and result in his expulsion.

In the following chapter, Malcolm says that his strongest opponents were not the whites, but educated black liberals. These black liberals would accuse Malcolm of instigation racial tension between blacks and whites. The Press always tried to use these differences to their advantage.

For instance, if a mayor (a black) is quoted in the paper saying that no racial tensions exist in his country, the press would immediately draw Malcolm's attention to it. Malcolm always went prepared for such discussions, and gave them answers that set them thinking.

At the same time, Malcolm always tried not to bring his differences with the civil rights activists out in public. For he always believed in black unity. So whenever, the press asked for his opinion on, say the famous Montgomery Boycott, he would, instead of criticizing the methods adopted by the Black Civil Rights activists, try to broaden the Boycott issue. He would say that this Boycott ought to be extended to the armed forces too. After all why should blacks join the army and lay down their lives for a country that has always treated them as second class citizens.

The demand for 'Integration' by the black civil rights activitist is another issue that Malcolm had sharp differences on. According to him, even if Integration is made legal blacks will never be accepted by the whites. In other words, whites because of their deep set racial prejudices will never change their attitude towards blacks. Therefore the demand for integration had no meaning for him. In this context, he said that the southerners who openly hated the idea of integration were far more honest than the northerners who gave lip service to 'integration' but did not really believe in it.

According to him what the blacks required was to live with dignity and self-respect. And this was possible only if they organized themselves and created enough resources for employing and educating the blacks. Moreover, he felt that the question of racism was not a civil rights issue, but that of human rights. And this question cannot be solved through phony talks of integration.

During this period Malcolm X was invited at several colleges and universities, where students wanted to hear the 'angry young man' of America speak. One of the reasons for the popularity was a book on Black Muslims, which was made a part of the curriculum in colleges. Once when Malcolm X had gone to Harvard university to address a gathering, he happened to look out of the window. He saw the apartment from where he and his friends planned their burglaries. For a moment, his past life flashed before his eyes. He recalls how he had lived 'like an animal.' He becomes aware of the role played by Islam in transforming him. Islam had lifted him from the 'ghettos' and made him a minister in the Nation of Islam.

He remembers the story of Icarus from Greek mythology. In the story his father warns Icarus that if he flew too high in the sky, the sun will melt the wax in his wings and he would fall. Malcolm, standing at the windows then, promises himself that he will always remember that the wings given to him to fly were not his own, but of Allah.

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