The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X [X, Malcolm] (z-lib.org).epub.pdf

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Unformatted text preview: A One World Book Published by The Random House Publishing Group Copyright © 1964 by Alex Haley and Malcolm X Copyright © 1965 by Alex Haley and Betty Shabazz Introduction copyright © 1965 by M. S. Handler All rights reserved. Published in the United States by One World Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneouslyin Canada by Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. This edition published by arrangement with Grove Press, Inc. “On Malcolm X” by Ossie Davis is previously appeared in Group magazine and is reprinted by permission. One World is a registered trademark and the One World colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 91-93124 ISBN 978-0-345-37671-8 eBook ISBN 9781101967805 First Ballantine Books Edition: June 1973 First Ballantine Books Trade Edition: February 1992 v4.1 a This book I dedicate to my beloved wife Betty and to our children whose understanding and whose sacrifices made it possible for me to do my work. CONTENTS Cover Title Page Copyright Dedication Introduction 1 Nightmare 2 Mascot 3 “Homeboy” 4 Laura 5 Harlemite 6 Detroit Red 7 Hustler 8 Trapped 9 Caught 10 Satan 11 Saved 12 Savior 13 Minister Malcolm X 14 Black Muslims 15 Icarus 16 Out 17 Mecca 18 El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz 19 1965 Alex Haley: Epilogue Ossie Davis: On Malcolm X M. S. HANDLER INTRODUCTION The Sunday before he was to officially announce his rupture with Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X came to my home to discuss his plans and give me some necessary documentation. Mrs. Handler had never met Malcolm before this fateful visit. She served us coffee and cakes while Malcolm spoke in the courteous, gentle manner that was his in private. It was obvious to me that Mrs. Handler was impressed by Malcolm. His personality filled our living room. Malcolm’s attitude was that of a man who had reached a crossroads in his life and was making a choice under an inner compulsion. A wistful smile illuminated his countenance from time to time—a smile that said many things. I felt uneasy because Malcolm was evidently trying to say something which his pride and dignity prevented him from expressing. I sensed that Malcolm was not confident he would succeed in escaping from the shadowy world which had held him in thrall. Mrs. Handler was quiet and thoughtful after Malcolm’s departure. Looking up suddenly, she said: “You know, it was like having tea with a black panther.” The description startled me. The black panther is an aristocrat in the animal kingdom. He is beautiful. He is dangerous. As a man, Malcolm X had the physical bearing and the inner self-confidence of a born aristocrat. And he was potentially dangerous. No man in our time aroused fear and hatred in the white man as did Malcolm, because in him the white man sensed an implacable foe who could not be had for any price—a man unreservedly committed to the cause of liberating the black man in American society rather than integrating the black man into that society. My first meeting with Malcolm X took place in March 1963 in the Muslim restaurant of Temple Number Seven on Lenox Avenue. I had been assigned by The New York Times to investigate the growing pressures within the Negro community. Thirty years of experience as a reporter in Western and Eastern Europe had taught me that the forces in a developing social struggle are frequently buried beneath the visible surface and make themselves felt in many ways long before they burst out into the open. These generative forces make themselves felt through the power of an idea long before their organizational forms can openly challenge the establishment. It is the merit of European political scientists and sociologists to give a high priority to the power of ideas in a social struggle. In the United States, it is our weakness to confuse the numerical strength of an organization and the publicity attached to leaders with the germinating forces that sow the seeds of social upheaval in our community. In studying the growing pressures within the Negro community, I had not only to seek the opinions of the established leaders of the civil rights organizations but the opinions of those working in the penumbra of the movement—“underground,” so to speak. This is why I sought out Malcolm X, whose ideas had reached me through the medium of Negro integrationists. Their thinking was already reflecting a high degree of nascent Negro nationalism. I did not know what to expect as I waited for Malcolm. I was the only white person in the restaurant, an immaculate establishment tended by somber, handsome, uncommunicative Negroes. Signs reading “Smoking Forbidden” were pasted on the highly polished mirrors. I was served coffee but became uneasy in this aseptic, silent atmosphere as time passed. Malcolm finally arrived. He was very tall, handsome, of impressive bearing. His skin had a bronze hue. I rose to greet him and extended my hand. Malcolm’s hand came up slowly. I had the impression it was difficult for him to take my hand, but, noblesse oblige, he did. Malcolm then did a curious thing which he always repeated whenever we met in public in a restaurant in New York or Washington. He asked whether I would mind if he took a seat facing the door. I had had similar requests put to me in Eastern European capitals. Malcolm was on the alert, he wished to see every person who entered the restaurant. I quickly realized that Malcolm constantly walked in danger. We spoke for more than three hours at this first encounter. His views about the white man were devastating, but at no time did he transgress against my own personality and make me feel that I, as an individual, shared in the guilt. He attributed the degradation of the Negro people to the white man. He denounced integration as a fraud. He contended that if the leaders of the established civil rights organizations persisted, the social struggle would end in bloodshed because he was certain the white man would never concede full integration. He argued the Muslim case for separation as the only solution in which the Negro could achieve his own identity, develop his own culture, and lay the foundations for a selfrespecting productive community. He was vague about where the Negro state could be established. Malcolm refused to see the impossibility of the white man conceding secession from the United States; at this stage in his career he contended it was the only solution. He defended Islam as a religion that did not recognize color bars. He denounced Christianity as a religion designed for slaves and the Negro clergy as the curse of the black man, exploiting him for their own purposes instead of seeking to liberate him, and acting as handmaidens of the white community in its determination to keep the Negroes in a subservient position. During this first encounter Malcolm also sought to enlighten me about the Negro mentality. He repeatedly cautioned me to beware of Negro affirmations of good will toward the white man. He said that the Negro had been trained to dissemble and conceal his real thoughts, as a matter of survival. He argued that the Negro only tells the white man what he believes the white man wishes to hear, and that the art of dissembling reached a point where even Negroes cannot truthfully say they understand what their fellow Negroes believe. The art of deception practiced by the Negro was based on a thorough understanding of the white man’s mores, he said; at the same time the Negro has remained a closed book to the white man, who has never displayed any interest in understanding the Negro. 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. After this first encounter, I realized that there were two Malcolms—the private and the public person. His public performances on television and at meeting halls produced an almost terrifying effect. His implacable marshaling of facts and his logic had something of a new dialectic, diabolic in its force. He frightened white television audiences, demolished his Negro opponents, but elicited a remarkable response from Negro audiences. Many Negro opponents in the end refused to make any public appearances on the same platform with him. The troubled white audiences were confused, disturbed, felt themselves threatened. Some began to consider Malcolm evil incarnate. Malcolm appealed to the two most disparate elements in the Negro community—the depressed mass, and the galaxy of Negro writers and artists who have burst on the American scene in the past decade. The Negro middle class—the Negro “establishment”—abhorred and feared Malcolm as much as he despised it. The impoverished Negroes respected Malcolm in the way that wayward children respect the grandfather image. It was always a strange and moving experience to walk with Malcolm in Harlem. He was known to all. People glanced at him shyly. Sometimes Negro youngsters would ask for his autograph. It always seemed to me that their affection for Malcolm was inspired by the fact that although he had become a national figure, he was still a man of the people who, they felt, would never betray them. The Negroes have suffered too long from betrayals and in Malcolm they sensed a man of mission. They knew his origins, with which they could identify. They knew his criminal and prison record, which he had never concealed. They looked upon Malcolm with a certain wonderment. Here was a man, who had come from the lower depths which they still inhabited, who had triumphed over his own criminality and his own ignorance to become a forceful leader and spokesman, an uncompromising champion of his people. Although many could not share his Muslim religious beliefs, they found in Malcolm’s puritanism a standing reproach to their own lives. Malcolm had purged himself of all the ills that afflict the depressed Negro mass: drugs, alcohol, tobacco, not to speak of criminal pursuits. His personal life was impeccable—of a puritanism unattainable for the mass. Human redemption—Malcolm had achieved it in his own lifetime, and this was known to the Negro community. In his television appearances and at public meetings Malcolm articulated the woes and the aspirations of the depressed Negro mass in a way it was unable to do for itself. When he attacked the white man, Malcolm did for the Negroes what they couldn’t do for themselves—he attacked with a violence and anger that spoke for the ages of misery. It was not an academic exercise of just giving hell to “Mr. Charlie.” Many of the Negro writers and artists who are national figures today revered Malcolm for what they considered his ruthless honesty in stating the Negro case, his refusal to compromise, and his search for a group identity that had been destroyed by the white man when he brought the Negroes in chains from Africa. The Negro writers and artists regarded Malcolm as the great catalyst, the man who inspired self-respect and devotion in the downtrodden millions. A group of these artists gathered one Sunday in my home, and we talked about Malcolm. Their devotion to him as a man was moving. One said: “Malcolm will never betray us. We have suffered too much from betrayals in the past.” Malcolm’s attitude toward the white man underwent a marked change in 1964—a change that contributed to his break with Elijah Muhammad and his racist doctrines. Malcolm’s meteoric eruption on the national scene brought him into wider contact with white men who were not the “devils” he had thought they were. He was much in demand as a speaker at student forums in Eastern universities and had appeared at many by the end of his short career as a national figure. He always spoke respectfully and with a certain surprise of the positive response of white students to his lectures. A second factor that contributed to his conversion to wider horizons was a growing doubt about the authenticity of Elijah Muhammad’s version of the Muslim religion—a doubt that grew into a certainty with more knowledge and more experience. Certain secular practices at the Chicago headquarters of Elijah Muhammad had come to Malcolm’s notice and he was profoundly shocked. Finally, he embarked on a number of prolonged trips to Mecca and the newly independent African states through the good offices of the representatives of the Arab League in the United States. It was on his first trip to Mecca that he came to the conclusion that he had yet to discover Islam. Assassins’ bullets ended Malcolm’s career before he was able to develop this new approach, which in essence recognized the Negroes as an integral part of the American community—a far cry from Elijah Muhammad’s doctrine of separation. Malcolm had reached the midpoint in redefining his attitude to this country and the white-black relationship. He no longer inveighed against the United States but against a segment of the United States represented by overt white supremacists in the South and covert white supremacists in the North. It was Malcolm’s intention to raise Negro militancy to a new high point with the main thrust aimed at both the Southern and Northern white supremacists. The Negro problem, which he had always said should be renamed “the white man’s problem,” was beginning to assume new dimensions for him in the last months of his life. To the very end, Malcolm sought to refashion the broken strands between the American Negroes and African culture. He saw in this the road to a new sense of group identity, a self-conscious role in history, and above all a sense of man’s own worth which he claimed the white man had destroyed in the Negro. American autobiographical literature is filled with numerous accounts of remarkable men who pulled themselves to the summit by their bootstraps. Few are as poignant as Malcolm’s memoirs. As testimony to the power of redemption and the force of human personality, the autobiography of Malcolm X is a revelation. New York, June 1965 CHAPTER 1 NIGHTMARE When my mother was pregnant with me, she told me later, a party of hooded Ku Klux Klan riders galloped up to our home in Omaha, Nebraska, one night. Surrounding the house, brandishing their shotguns and rifles, they shouted for my father to come out. My mother went to the front door and opened it. Standing where they could see her pregnant condition, she told them that she was alone with her three small children, and that my father was away, preaching, in Milwaukee. The Klansmen shouted threats and warnings at her that we had better get out of town because “the good Christian white people” were not going to stand for my father’s “spreading trouble” among the “good” Negroes of Omaha with the “back to Africa” preachings of Marcus Garvey. My father, the Reverend Earl Little, was a Baptist minister, a dedicated organizer for Marcus Aurelius Garvey’s U.N.I.A. (Universal Negro Improvement Association). With the help of such disciples as my father, Garvey, from his headquarters in New York City’s Harlem, was raising the banner of black-race purity and exhorting the Negro masses to return to their ancestral African homeland—a cause which had made Garvey the most controversial black man on earth. Still shouting threats, the Klansmen finally spurred their horses and galloped around the house, shattering every window pane with their gun butts. Then they rode off into the night, their torches flaring, as suddenly as they had come. My father was enraged when he returned. He decided to wait until I was born—which would be soon—and then the family would move. I am not sure why he made this decision, for he was not a frightened Negro, as most then were, and many still are today. My father was a big, six-foot-four, very black man. He had only one eye. How he had lost the other one I have never known. He was from Reynolds, Georgia, where he had left school after the third or maybe fourth grade. He believed, as did Marcus Garvey, that freedom, independence and self-respect could never be achieved by the Negro in America, and that therefore the Negro should leave America to the white man and return to his African land of origin. Among the reasons my father had decided to risk and dedicate his life to help disseminate this philosophy among his people was that he had seen four of his six brothers die by violence, three of them killed by white men, including one by lynching. What my father could not know then was that of the remaining three, including himself, only one, my Uncle Jim, would die in bed, of natural causes. Northern white police were later to shoot my Uncle Oscar. And my father was finally himself to die by the white man’s hands. It has always been my belief that I, too, will die by violence. I have done all that I can to be prepared. I was my father’s seventh child. He had three children by a previous marriage—Ella, Earl, and Mary, who lived in Boston. He had met and married my mother in Philadelphia, where their first child, my oldest full brother, Wilfred, was born. They moved from Philadelphia to Omaha, where Hilda and then Philbert were born. I was next in line. My mother was twenty-eight when I was born on May 19, 1925, in an Omaha hospital. Then we moved to Milwaukee, where Reginald was born. From infancy, he had some kind of hernia condition which was to handicap him physically for the rest of his life. Louise Little, my mother, who was born in Grenada, in the British West Indies, looked like a white woman. Her father was white. She had straight black hair, and her accent did not sound like a Negro’s. Of this white father of hers, I know nothing except her shame about it. I remember hearing her say she was glad that she had never seen him. It was, of course, because of him that I got my reddish-brown “mariny” color of skin, and my hair of the same color. I was the lightest child in our family. (Out in the world later on, in Boston and New York, I was among the millions of Negroes who were insane enough to feel that it was some kind of status symbol to be lightcomplexioned—that one was actually fortunate to be born thus. But, still later, I learned to hate every drop of that white rapist’s blood that is in me.) Our family stayed only briefly in Milwaukee, for my father wanted to find a place where he could raise our own food and perhaps build a business. The teaching of Marcus Garvey stressed becoming independent of the white man. We went next, for some reason, to Lansing, Michigan. My father bought a house and soon, as had been his pattern, he was doing freelance Christian preaching in local Negro Baptist churches, and during the week he was roaming about spreading word of Marcus Garvey. He had begun to lay away savings for the store he had always wanted to own when, as always, some stupid local Uncle Tom Negroes began to funnel stories about his revolutionary beliefs to the local white people. This time, the get-out-of-town threats came from a local hate society called The Black Legion. They wore black robes instead of white. Soon, nearly everywhere my father went, Black Legionnaires were reviling him as an “uppity nigger” for wanting to own a store, for living outside the Lansing Negro district, for spreading unrest and dissention among “the good niggers.” As in Omaha, my mother was pregnant again, this time with my youngest sister. Shortly after Yvonne was born came the nightmare night in 1929, my earliest vivid memory. I remember being suddenly snatched awake into a frightening confusion of pistol shots and shouting and smoke and flames. My father had shouted and shot at the two white men who had set the fire and were running away. Our home was burning down around us...
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