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The Autobiography of Malcolm X | Study Guide

Malcolm X and Alex Haley

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The Autobiography of Malcolm X | Chapter 18 : El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz | Summary



Prince Faisal of Saudi Arabia makes Malcolm a guest of the state and arranges a car to take him sightseeing in Mecca. On his tour Malcolm observes that people tended to come together with people like themselves. Africans associated with Africans and Pakistanis with Pakistanis. He concludes that where segregation is not forced, "people of the same kind felt drawn together."

Malcolm speaks to the Mayor of Jedda and to Prince Faisal and he speaks at informal gatherings in the lobby of the Jedda Palace Hotel. Leaders and business people from other nations are also at the Jedda Palace Hotel. Malcolm remarks that all "Negro leaders" should have this experience of "extensive traveling" in nonwhite lands, including "many conferences with the ranking men of those lands."

Malcolm flies to Beirut, Lebanon, where he speaks to a university audience about "the truth of the American black man's condition." He then visits Cairo and Alexandria in Egypt. He flies from Egypt to Nigeria. In Lagos, Nigeria, he speaks about violence in black ghettos in the United States and about the need for American black people to join in unity with Pan-Africanists. He is made an honorary member of a Muslim students' society and given a new, Yoruba name, "Omowale," meaning "the son who has come home." In Ghana Malcolm meets with black Americans who had moved to Ghana, including American poet Maya Angelou. The Ghanaian press excitedly covers Malcolm's visit.

Malcolm cannot believe that he gets "this kind of reception five thousand miles from America!" He then speaks at a press conference, addressing the need for unity between American and African black people. He speaks with ambassadors and other dignitaries. He addresses the Parliament of Ghana and asks the parliament members how they can condemn Portuguese colonialism in Africa and the policies of South Africa but remain silent when "our black people in America are being bitten by dogs and beaten with clubs?" Malcolm then has a meeting with the prime minister of Ghana, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. He calls this "the single highest honor" of the whole trip.

In the city of Winneba, Ghana, Malcolm meets with the Chinese ambassador to Ghana. He goes to a dance where Ghanaians dance the "high-life," a popular contemporary African dance style for pop music. However, Malcolm declines to dance, saying he is too concerned with serious matters. When Malcolm leaves Ghana, five ambassadors see him off at the airport. "I no longer had any words," Malcolm says of the honor.

Malcolm makes short visits to Liberia, Senegal, Morocco, and Algeria and then flies home to New York on May 21, 1964. The press is there to greet his plane. The reporters ask him about violent acts supposedly incited by his words. They ask him about other statements of his regarding black gun ownership. Malcolm answers without being baited into saying something that sounds like support for violence. He turns the conversation to his idea of American black people seeking justice in the United Nations. He speaks about his pilgrimage to Mecca, where he saw "all races, all colors,—blue-eyed blonds to black-skinned Africans—in true brotherhood! In unity!"

The next day he is driving when a car pulls up alongside him at a stoplight. The white driver cheerily calls out, "Malcolm X! Do you mind shaking hands with a white man?" Malcolm answers, "I don't mind shaking hands with human beings. Are you one?"


Alongside all the honors recorded in this chapter are two important ideas of Malcolm's. The first comes from his observation about Mecca. He sees Africans associating with Africans and Pakistanis with Pakistanis. Earlier in life he used his observations about smells and tastes to support his ideas of separatism. People of the same race belonged together, he believed, and the evidence was even in such small details as the spices they like in their food. In Mecca he sees people freely associating. They are not compelled to be together, unlike black people in the United States who are steered into particular neighborhoods, schools, and professions. Malcolm did not have a chance to fully develop his ideas, but his observations in Mecca suggest he was not interested in a "color-blind" society. He only wanted differences of complexion to stop being differences in human rights.

Malcolm also had the idea of internationalizing the struggle of black Americans. He wanted to connect black struggles in the United States to the newly decolonized nations of Africa. He was not the only person to have this idea but his fame put him in a position to promote it. In this chapter he attempts to persuade legislators in Ghana to condemn racist practices in the United States. He also hoped to get the United Nations to condemn the United States' human rights abuses. In discussing these ideas he recalls his father's commitment to Marcus Garvey. Garvey also linked the problems of black Americans to African struggles for freedom. Although the ideas are summed up in the phrase "black nationalism," it was a kind of black internationalism.

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