In prison, the published autobiography relates, Malcolm undergoes a religious and political awakening that culminates with his conversion to Islam; he became the chief minister of Harlem’s Temple No. Seven years later, he was named the Nation of Islam's national representative and had become its public face.
In prison, the published autobiography relates, Malcolm undergoes a religious and political awakening that culminates with his conversion to Islam; he became the chief minister of Harlem’s Temple No. Seven years later, he was named the Nation of Islam's national representative and had become its public face.The book concludes at a dizzying pace as Malcolm experienced the turmoil of his ouster from the Nation of Islam, his founding of two independent organizations (Muslim Mosque Inc., and the Organization of Afro-American Unity), his travels abroad in 1964, and eventually his assassination in early 1965.Fearing it would be too controversial, Doubleday withdrew its contract after Malcolm’s death in what biographer Manning Marable called the “most disastrous decision in corporate publishing history.” The book sold six million copies by 1977 and would later serve as the basis of Spike Lee’s influential 1992 biopic.
The book is viewed as a crystallization of Malcolm X’s political vision, yet that vision is all too often overshadowed by—or conflated with—the man himself, portrayed in the book as a charismatic leader defined by dramatic personal transformation and tragedy.
That understanding—both of the person and of the politics—now stands to be reexamined.
Haley would type as Malcolm spoke aloud, gathering napkins he had surreptitiously placed for Malcolm to scribble his thoughts.
Around this time, Haley wrote his editor and agent that Malcolm was “tense as the length of his inactivity grows—and it eases him when I come and talk the book with him.” Malcolm began to reflect more openly about his past, likely ballooning the personal narrative at the expense of the essays, and Haley began to describe the “first half of the book” as “the man’s life story.” With his restlessness producing more material, “The Negro” was now intended to be one of three, rather than eleven, essays for the remainder of the book.
Whatever the reasoning, “The Negro” is a fragment of the book Malcolm today.
We will never fully know that book, of course, but “The Negro” chapter forces us, finally, to engage with it.
As political philosopher Brandon Terry reminded us in these pages on the fiftieth anniversary of King’s death this year, “There are costs to canonization.” The primary vehicle of canonization in Malcolm’s case has been The project first took shape in 1963, when Malcolm signed an agreement with journalist Alex Haley to co-author the book for Doubleday Press.
(It was the first book for both writers.) The contract stipulated that Malcolm would have ultimate say over the final version: “Nothing can be in the manuscript, whether a sentence, a paragraph, or a chapter, or more that you do not completely approve of.” But Malcolm would never see the final book, which was published instead by Grove Press after his assassination in 1965.
Malcolm Little, born one of seven children in 1925 to disciples of Pan-African activist Marcus Garvey, was imbued with black self-reliance during his childhood in Lansing, Michigan.
His father, Earl, was killed under suspicious circumstances—many suspect the Black Legion, a white hate group—when Malcolm was six years old.