Malcolm X, Chicago, 1961. by Eve Arnold.
I recently finished The Autobiography of Malcolm X (as told to Alex Haley). Oh my god. If you read any biographical book, read this one.
It used to be a really widespread required reading, but isn’t so much anymore, and I’m now really disappointed that I never had to read it at a single point during my studies, even though my history classes focused on the second half of 20th century American politics and culture. Wtf.
Lamestream history kind of views Malcolm X as a demagogue and leader of a racist, fabricated religion, and as a proponent of violence as a means towards civil rights. One of the beauties of this book though, is how it gives you a clear insight into what the Nation of Islam was all about, and what historical forces existed that made it such an appealing and natural choice for some people.
This book is amazing for its sheer power alone - the power of his life story, the power of the injustice, the power of emotion as a cultural force, and the power of knowledge to enlighten and motivate humans. He was such a charismatic person, and you can really feel his personality and emotion coming through the pages.
What impressed me most about Malcolm X was his willingness to learn and to grow. He went through so many changes in philosophy throughout his life, and always remained open to learning new things. His dedication to self-education was his greatest asset, along with his humility and ability to connect with others. Don’t worry, you don’t have to agree with any of his beliefs to appreciate his story.
I was discussing the book with my dad, and he made the point that what he had to say scared a lot of people, and people didn’t really understand what he had to say, either. And so you had media dealing with him in really frustrating ways, like this awesome clueless and condescending interviewer. (Seriously, does anybody not want to yell at him to shut up? Let the man with the voice of butter speak.) But you don’t have to think white people are a genetically modified devil race to appreciate him or this book.
It’s definitely in my top 10 history books now, if not pushing its way into all-time.
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