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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 | Key Figures

Key Figure Description
Malcolm X A Muslim minister and black nationalist with a national and international following, Malcolm X was assassinated at the age of 39. Read More
Elijah Muhammad A frail old man who ruled the Nation of Islam with an iron fist, Elijah Muhammad was often focused on death threats, both making them and fending them off. Read More
Earl Little Malcolm X's father was a Baptist minister and an organizer for Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association in Nebraska and then in Michigan. Read More
Louise Little Born in the West Indies to a white father and a black mother, Louise Little was Malcolm X's mother. Read More
Shorty A musician in Boston, Shorty originally hailed from Lansing, Michigan, just like his friend Malcolm. Read More
West Indian Archie A former strong-arm man for the white gangster Dutch Schultz, West Indian Archie was a highly regarded man in the Harlem numbers racket when Malcolm met him. Read More
Betty Shabazz Betty Shabazz, or Sister Betty X, was a devout Muslim in the Nation of Islam and a nursing student when she met and married Malcolm X. Read More
Bimbi Bimbi was an inmate at Charlestown prison who told Malcolm X he should learn to use his intelligence and also read a book once in a while.
Cassius Clay Cassius Clay was a boxer, better known as Muhammad Ali, the Muslim name he later took. Malcolm and his family were Clay's guests in Miami for the bout in which Clay defeated Sonny Liston for the title of heavyweight champion of the world.
Ossie Davis Ossie Davis was an American actor and playwright who delivered a eulogy at Malcolm X's funeral. Davis was also a prominent figure at the March on Washington, a protest Malcolm X scorned as a "circus."
Fewclothes Fewclothes was an aged and arthritic former pickpocket in Harlem. Once the best in his field, the pathetic Fewclothes serves as a warning of what happens when a hustler stays in the game too long.
John Hughes John Hughes was a big-time gambler in Roxbury who gave Malcolm X a stake to set him up in a hustling racket when he returned from Harlem.
Hymie A Jewish man who hired Malcolm X to transport bootleg liquor, Hymie was frank about the enmity he saw between Jews and Gentiles. He despised Jewish people who Americanized their names.
Jumpsteady Jumpsteady was an apartment burglar Malcolm X met in Harlem. He got his name from his ability to jump from roof to roof while burglarizing apartment buildings.
Laura Laura was a demure, studious high school student who turned out to have a wild streak. After Malcolm rejected her for the white Sophia, she turned to alcohol, drugs, and sex work.
Ella Little Ella Little was Malcolm's half-sister, from his father's earlier marriage. A strong and independent woman, she was from Georgia but made her own way in Boston.
Reginald Little Reginald was Malcolm's younger brother and something of his favorite. Forced out of the Nation of Islam for the sin of fornication, Reginald became mentally ill and was hospitalized.
Mr. Ostrowski Malcolm's English teacher at Mason Junior High, Mr. Ostrowski told Malcolm that a lawyer was no occupation for a "nigger" and suggested he become a carpenter instead.
Rudy Rudy was a mixed-race man who joined Malcolm and Shorty's burglary ring.
Sammy the Pimp Sammy was a "young, smooth, independent-acting pimp" who claimed he could spot future prostitutes by the looks on their faces when they danced.
Dr. Shawarbi A learned man, Dr. Mahmoud Youssef Shawarbi from Cairo was a professor at Columbia University. He was in charge of approving converted American Muslims' trips to Mecca.
Muhammad Shawarbi The son of Dr. Shawarbi and a student of economics and political science at Cairo University, Muhammad met with Malcolm on his first trip to the Middle East.
Sophia Sophia was a white woman who liked to dance with black men at the Roseland Ballroom. She took a liking to Malcolm, and they became casual lovers for many years.
Mr. Swerlin A kind yet racist white man, Mr. Swerlin was a father figure to Malcolm X when he was sent to a detention home.
Mrs. Swerlin Mrs. Swerlin ran the detention home and saw to it that Malcolm was not sent on to the harsher reform school. When Malcolm returned to Michigan in a zoot suit and with conked hair, Mrs. Swerlin was uncomfortable with him.
Turner Turner was a police detective in Roxbury who made it his business to bust Malcolm and Shorty.
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