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Literature Study GuidesThe Autobiography Of Malcolm X

The Autobiography of Malcolm X | Study Guide

Malcolm X and Alex Haley

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Course Hero. "The Autobiography of Malcolm X Study Guide." Course Hero. 25 Oct. 2017. Web. 31 May 2023. <>.

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Course Hero. (2017, October 25). The Autobiography of Malcolm X Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved May 31, 2023, from

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Course Hero. "The Autobiography of Malcolm X Study Guide." October 25, 2017. Accessed May 31, 2023.


Course Hero, "The Autobiography of Malcolm X Study Guide," October 25, 2017, accessed May 31, 2023,


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Malcolm X and Alex Haley

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At a Glance

  • In 1493 waves of Spanish colonizers began to arrive in the Americas. Their goals were to seize land, find gold, and convert the indigenous population to Christianity.
  • Bartolomé de Las Casas (1484–1566) arrived in the region in 1502, as part of a group of Spanish colonizers.
  • Horrified by colonizers' the treatment of native peoples, Las Casas eventually joined the priesthood and became an outspoken critic of the abuses.
  • Las Casas's account of the ways the colonizers abused and killed the indigenous people of the region was written in 1542 but not published until 1552.
  • A main goal of the account was to inform the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (1500–58), who was also Spain's King Charles I, about the abuses perpetrated in his name.
  • Las Casas paints a dark portrait of cruel and violent colonizers. He describes the indigenous people in mostly positive terms.
  • Las Casas often portrays monks and priests in a positive light, able to spread Christianity when the violent colonizers are absent.
  • Las Casas supported the goal of spreading Christianity. A key argument in the text is that the colonial violence interferes with this goal.
  • Las Casas's advocacy led to some new laws for fairer treatment of native people, but they were opposed by Spanish colonizers and soon repealed.

Perspective and Narrator

The Autobiography of Malcolm X is narrated in the first-person by Malcolm X. However, it is important to remember that there is another author here, Alex Haley, who made narrative choices in structuring this text based on numerous interviews with Malcolm X.


The Autobiography of Malcolm X is written in the past tense.

About the Title

The Autobiography of Malcolm X tells the life story of prominent African American activist and nationalist Malcolm X. However, the term autobiography may not be a pure application in that a secondary author, Alex Haley, most certainly contributed to the narration of the text. In addition the use of the name Malcolm X in the title is interesting. By the end of his life, Malcolm X had changed his name again to El-Hajji El-Malik Shabazz. The use of the former name ties Malcolm X to a time and place in history regardless of his personal desire to move beyond it.


This study guide and infographic for Malcolm X and Alex Haley's The Autobiography of Malcolm X offer summary and analysis on themes, symbols, and other literary devices found in the text. Explore Course Hero's library of literature materials, including documents and Q&A pairs.

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