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Free Study Guide-The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X-Free Notes
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Chapter 16

Summary

In 1961, Elijah Muhammad's health was failing. According to Malcolm, Elijah Muhammad had a special position in the organization which no one outside the Nation could understand. The ministers of the Nation followed his moral and spiritual example and looked up to him for advice and guidance in moments of crisis. Therefore, those outside the Nation of Islam would never understand the deep loss and emptiness that its members would experience if he died. What bound the Black Muslims to what Malcolm calls the best organization for blacks, was their love and respect for the spiritual leader.

The Nation of Islam had the strictest moral codes, which every member including the top most officials were expected to follow. And this he did by following the leader's personal example. Due to his failing health, Mr. Muhammad was advised to move to a dry place. Therefore, the Nation bought a house in Phoenix for him to rest. Now Malcolm had to take on more responsibility, which he did at the expense of his family. Sometimes he was away for weeks at a stretch. But Betty never felt neglected or ignored. She was an extremely devoted wife who understood the pressures of working in an organization. Malcolm recalls that once when he called up from the airport, his wife told him that she felt his presence at home even when he was not physically present with her.

During this period of hectic work, Malcolm began to feel the heat of envy against him within the organization. There were allegations against him that he was taking all the credit for the work going on in the organization. Another allegation was that he was using the organization money for personal comforts. Malcolm refutes all these allegations. Whenever he spoke to the press or at the various educational institutions, he always gave credit to Mr. Elijah Muhammad. While meeting the press, he would give them photographs of the spiritual leader to be printed in papers instead of his.

The allegations never really hurt Malcolm as Mr. Elijah Muhammad had anticipated this attacks on him made by jealous ministers. Therefore, Malcolm knew that if these false allegations reached Mr. Muhammad's ears he would ignore them. But due to the jealousy, less and less of his public speeches, interviews, and talks were reported in their mouthpiece. This he felt was not fair because the black masses on whose behalf he was talking would never learn about it.


Much more than the jealousy within the organization, the talks of Elijah's sexual misconduct in the Chicago Temple shook him. He could not believe it. He wanted to confirm it. He met Wallace Muhammad, Elijah Muhammad's son, the one person in the organization; he was very close to. He learned in Chicago not only from Wallace but also from several others that Elijah Muhammad had had sexual relationship with three of his former secretaries. He decided to meet the three secretaries. Malcolm learned from the secretaries that whatever he had heard about Elijah Muhammad was indeed true.

As if all this wasn't enough, the secretaries told him that the spiritual leader always praised Malcolm on his face but tore him apart behind his back. Malcolm was really hurt when he heard this. In spite of what he had heard, Malcolm along with Wallace Muhammad, sat together to solve the problem before them. They had to put a stop to all the talks that were going on about the leader.

After discussing the problem they decided that a man's contribution to the good of society far outweigh his personal weakness. In other words, a persons worth should be judged by his positive actions rather that his personal weaknesses. Malcolm had the twin examples of David and Prophet Muhammad who are remembered for their super human feats rather than their illicit relationships with Bath Sheba and Ethiopian women respectively.

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