The Autobiography of Malcolm X Highlights

by Malcolm X

Malcolm’s exposition of his social ideas was clear and thoughtful, if somewhat shocking to the white initiate, but most disconcerting in our talk was Malcolm’s belief in Elijah Muhammad’s history of the origins of man, and in a genetic theory devised to prove the superiority of black over white—a theory stunning to me in its sheer absurdity.

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It has always been my belief that I, too, will die by violence. I have done all that I can to be prepared.

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It seems that some women love to be exploited. When they are not exploited, they exploit the man.

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Looking back, I think I really was at least slightly out of my mind. I viewed narcotics as most people regard food. I wore my guns as today I wear my neckties. Deep down, I actually believed that after living as fully as humanly possible, one should then die violently. I expected then, as I still expect today, to die at any time. But then, I think I deliberately invited death in many, sometimes insane, ways.

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All of a sudden, I pulled out my gun, shook out all five bullets, and then let them see me put back only one bullet. I twirled the cylinder, and put the muzzle to my head. “Now, I’m going to see how much guts all of you have,” I said. I grinned at them. All of their mouths had flapped open. I pulled the trigger—we all heard it click. “I’m going to do it again, now.” They begged me to stop. I could see in Shorty’s and Rudy’s eyes some idea of rushing me. We all heard the hammer click on another empty cylinder. The women were in hysterics. Rudy and Shorty were begging, “Man…Red…cut it out, man!…Freeze!” I pulled the trigger once more. “I’m doing this, showing you I’m not afraid to die,” I told them. “Never cross a man not afraid to die…now, let’s get to work!”

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I want to say before I go on that I have never previously told anyone my sordid past in detail. I haven’t done it now to sound as though I might be proud of how bad, how evil, I was.

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And where the religion of every other people on earth taught its believers of a God with whom they could identify, a God who at least looked like one of their own kind, the slavemaster injected his Christian religion into this “Negro.” This “Negro” was taught to worship an alien God having the same blond hair, pale skin, and blue eyes as the slavemaster.

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I was going through the hardest thing, also the greatest thing, for any human being to do; to accept that which is already within you, and around you.

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Many who today hear me somewhere in person, or on television, or those who read something I’ve said, will think I went to school far beyond the eighth grade. This impression is due entirely to my prison studies.

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Elijah Muhammad spoke of how the black man was Original Man, who had been kidnapped from his homeland and stripped of his language, his culture, his family structure, his family name, until the black man in America did not even realize who he was.

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The Muslim’s “X” symbolized the true African family name that he never could know. For me, my “X” replaced the white slavemaster name of “Little” which some blue-eyed devil named Little had imposed upon my paternal forebears. The receipt of my “X” meant that forever after in the nation of Islam, I would be known as Malcolm X. Mr. Muhammad taught that we would keep this “X” until God Himself returned and gave us a Holy Name from His own mouth.

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Mr. W. D. Fard taught that the Negroes in America were directly descended from Muslims. He taught that Negroes in America were Lost Sheep, lost for four hundred years from the Nation of Islam, and that he, Mr. Fard, had come to redeem and return the Negro to his true religion.

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Now, Islam has very strict laws and teachings about women, the core of them being that the true nature of man is to be strong, and a woman’s true nature is to be weak, and while a man must at all times respect his woman, at the same time he needs to understand that he must control her if he expects to get her respect.

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“For the white man to ask the black man if he hates him is just like the rapist asking the raped, or the wolf asking the sheep, ‘Do you hate me?’ The white man is in no moral position to accuse anyone else of hate!

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To segregate means to control. Segregation is that which is forced upon inferiors by superiors. But separation is that which is done voluntarily, by two equals—for the good of both! The Honorable Elijah Muhammad teaches us that as long as our people here in America are dependent upon the white man, we will always be begging him for jobs, food, clothing, and housing.

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Why do I say this? Because all this has steadily helped this American white man to build up, deep in his psyche, absolute conviction that he is “superior.” In how many, many communities have, thus, white men who didn’t finish high school regarded condescendingly university-educated local Negro “leaders,” principals of schools, teachers, doctors, other professionals?

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I’m right with the Southern white man who believes that you can’t have so-called “integration,” at least not for long, without intermarriage increasing. And what good is this for anyone? Let’s again face reality. In a world as color-hostile as this, man or woman, black or white, what do they want with a mate of the other race?

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…[University talks] ran two to four hours—they often ran overtime. Challenges, queries, and criticisms were fired at me by the usually objective and always alive and searching minds of undergraduate and graduate students, and their faculties. The college sessions never failed to be exhilarating. They never failed in helping me to further my own education.

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I’ve talked with other public speakers; they agree that this ability is native to any person who has the “mass appeal” gift, who can get through to and move people. It’s a psychic radar. As a doctor, with his finger against a pulse, is able to feel the heart rate, when I am up there speaking, I can feel the reaction to what I am saying.

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“And we see again that not ideologies, but race, and color, is what binds human beings. Is it accidental that as Red Chinese visit African and Asian countries, Russia and America draw steadily closer to each other?

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“Republican,” a black “Conservative,” or a black “Liberal”…when a ten-million black vote bloc could be the deciding balance of power in American politics, because the white man’s vote is almost always evenly divided.

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It was when I first began to perceive that “white man,” as commonly used, means complexion only secondarily; primarily it described attitudes and actions. In America, “white man” meant specific attitudes and actions toward the black man, and toward all other non-white men.

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He also pointed out how color, the complexities of color, and the problems of color which exist in the Muslim world, exist only where, and to the extent that, that area of the Muslim world has been influenced by the West. He said that if one encountered any differences based on attitude toward color, this directly reflected the degree of Western influence.”

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I said that the American black man needed to recognize that he had a strong, airtight case to take the United States before the United Nations on a formal accusation of “denial of human rights”—and that if Angola and South Africa were precedent cases, then there would be no easy way that the U.S. could escape being censured, right on its own home ground.

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“In the past, yes, I have made sweeping indictments of all white people. I never will be guilty of that again—**as I know now that some white people are truly sincere, that some truly are capable of being brotherly toward a black man**. The true Islam has shown me that a blanket indictment of all white people is as wrong as when whites make blanket indictments against blacks.

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“Yes, I have been convinced that some American whites do want to help cure the rampant racism which is on the path to destroying this country!

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“Our nation was born in genocide when it embraced the doctrine that the original American, the Indian, was an inferior race. Even before there were large numbers of Negroes on our shores, the scar of racial hatred had already disfigured colonial society. From the sixteenth century forward, blood flowed in battles over racial supremacy. We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its indigenous population.

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I told him, “What you are telling me is that it isn’t the American white man who is a racist, but it’s the American political, economic, and social atmosphere that automatically nourishes a racist psychology in the white man.” He agreed.

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For the freedom of my 22 million black brothers and sisters here in America, I do believe that I have fought the best that I knew how, and the best that I could, with the shortcomings that I have had. I know that my shortcomings are many.

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There was something about this man [Malcolm X] when he was in a room with people. He commanded the room, whoever else was present.

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I saw Malcolm X too many times exhilarated in after-lecture give-and-take with predominantly white student bodies at colleges and universities to ever believe that he nurtured at his core any blanket white-hatred.

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From this, it would be fair to say that one month before his death, Malcolm had revised his views on intermarriage to the point where he regarded it as simply a personal matter.

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And Malcolm was free. No one who knew him before and after his trip to Mecca could doubt that he had completely abandoned racism, separatism, and hatred.

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