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

Notes

The year 1963 must have been the most difficult year of Malcolm's life. For it is this year when he learns about Elijah Muhammad's sexual misconduct. Imagine his shock and the turmoil that must have gone on in his mind for a man who he trusted so much. The sense of betrayal deepens when he hears that the man he loved as a father, used to praise him on his face but criticize him behind his back.

The faith that he had in his spiritual Guru is shaken. But the last straw is when he is suspended for ninety days. Even though he accepts his mistake. Elijah seemed to have told the other members that Malcolm had rebelled against the Nation and that he would be allowed to return only if he 'submits'. Even now Malcolm is still in a state of emotional shock. Though physically out of the Nation, psychologically he still could not accept the break from an organization for which he had worked for twelve long years.

Finally, it is the death warrant for him that makes him realize that it was all over. He could never return to the Nation. He decides to form a new organization-a Black Muslim Organization, because he believed that the black people of America would support him in his endeavor. For he, more than anybody else had been in the ghettos, could speak the language of the ghettos, and he knew the psychology of the black youth here. This is because he had spent his youth in the 'ghettos.' The average black man on the streets of Harlem identified with him and responded when he spoke.


The chapter also throws light on Betty X. Inspite of Malcolm's busy schedule after Elijah's illness, she never complained. This reveals her devotion towards her husband. Also it indicates that Betty was a very understanding woman who knew the pressure of working in an organization.

The chapter is the climax of the book. For it is here that the tension rises. The press statement made by Malcolm after Kennedy's assassination is the prelude. The climax is when the spiritual head and Malcolm X meet. The tension is palpable even though both Malcolm and the reader know the outcome.

In this chapter, the reader meets a new person who plays a short but important role in helping Malcolm tide over the most difficult period of his life, Cassius Clay. Young Cassius Clay who admired Malcolm a lot was an upcoming boxer. While Betty X stood by him like a rock, Cassius Clay's bout with Sonny Liston serves to divert his attention from the emotional trauma and stress back home.

Perhaps, it was also the innate quality in Malcolm-the ability to rise out of the worst situation. It is this ability that helps him to get over the trauma of breaking with an organization for which he worked selflessly.

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