Excerpts from the Autobiography of Malcolm X

Excerpts from the Autobiography of Malcolm X
 
I’ve just become aware of how closed my mind was now that I’ve opened it up
 
Anybody who is in a position to discipline others should first learn to accept discipline himself
 
You have not converted a man because you have silenced him
 
Whether you use bullets or ballots you’ve got to aim well, don’t strike at the puppet, strike at the puppeteer
 
Anyone who wants to follow me in my movement has got to be ready to go to jail, to the hospital, to the cemetery before it can truly be free
 
Some of history’s greatest leaders never were recognized until they were safely in the ground
 
White people seem to think the black man ought to be shouting hallelujah! 400 years white man has had his foot-long knife in the black man’s back & now the white man starts to wiggle the knife out, maybe 6 inches! The black man’s supposed to be grateful? Why, if the white man jerked the knife out, it’s still going to leave a scar!
 
I was America’s only Negro who could stop a race riot-or start one.
 
Why should we go off to die somewhere to preserve a so-called democracy that gives a white immigrant of one day more than it gives the black man with 400 years of slaving & serving in this country?
 
P207
They asked me if I knew what a “conscientious objector” meant. I told them that when the white man asked me to go off somewhere and fight and maybe die to preserve the way the white man treated the black man inAmerica, then my conscience made me object.
 
P275
Once a little nobody Indian lawyer was put off a train, & fed up with injustice, he twisted a knot in the British lion’s tail. His name was Mahatma Gandhi…
 
P288
Gentleman, I finished the 8th grade inMason,Michigan. My high school was the black ghetto ofRoxbury,Massachusetts. My college was in the streets ofHarlem, & my masters was taken in prison
 
P326
No man has believed perfectly until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself
 
P334
I began to see what an important role the rug played in the overall cultural life of the muslims…these muslims prayed on their rugs…then they spread a tablecloth over the rug & ate, so the rug became the dining room. Removing the dishes & cloth, they sat on the rug- a living room. Then they curl up & sleep on the rug-a bedroom…rugs were so culturally versatile…a courtroom..in other instances…a classroom
P373
I’ve had enough of someone else’s propaganda, I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.
 
It takes no-one to stir up the sociological dynamite that stems from unemployment, bad housing, and inferior education already in the ghettoes. This explosively criminal condition has existed for so long, it needs no fuse; it fuses itself; it spontaneously combusts from within itself…”
 
I’m not for wanton violence, I’m for justice. I feel that if white people were attacked by negroes-if  the forces of the law prove unable, or inadequate, or reluctant to protect those whites from those negroes-then those white people should protect and defend themselves from those negroes, using arms if necessary. And I feel that when the law fails to protect negroes from whites attack, then those negroes should use arms, if necessary, to defend themselves.
 
P374
I am for violence if non-violence means we continue postponing a solution to the American black man’s problem-just to avoid violence. I don’t go for non-violence if it means a delayed solution. To me a delayed solution is a non-solution.
 
P375
Our nation was born in genocide when it embraced the doctrine that the original American, the Indian, was an inferior race. Even before there were large numbers of negroes on our shores, the scar of racial hatred had already disfigured colonial society. From the 16th century forward, blood flowed in battles over racial supremacy. We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its indigenous population. Moreover, we elevated that tragic experience into a noble crusade. Indeed, even today we have not permitted ourselves to reject or to feel remorse for this shameful episode. Our literature, our films, our drama, our folklore all exalt it. Our children are still taught to respect the violence which reduced a red-skinned people of an earlier culture into a few fragmented groups herded into impoverished reservations.”
-MLK JR?
 
Peaceful co-existence!…Fine! But what have been the deeds of the white man? During his entire advance through history, he has been waving the banner of Christianity…and carrying in his other hand the sword and the flintlock.
 
P376
Mankind’s history has proved from one era to another that the true criteria of leadership is spiritual. Men are attracted by the spirit. By power, men are forced. Love is engendered by spirit.  By power, anxieties are created.
 
P379
I was, to hear him tell it, anti-American, un-American, seditious, subversive, and probably Communist. I told him that what he said only proved how little he understood  about me. I told him that the only thing the FBI, the CIA, or anybody else could ever find me guilty of, was being open-minded. I said I was seeking for the truth, and I was trying to weigh—objectively—everything on its own merit. I said what I was against was strait-jacketed thinking, and strait-jacketed societies. I said I respected every man’s right to believe whatever his intelligence tells him is intellectually sound, and I expect everyone else to respect my right to believe likewise.
 
P380
….Saying this, I know I’ll hear “anti-Semetic” from every direction again. Oh, yes! But truth is truth.
 
P385
Sometimes, I have dared to dream to myself that one day, history may even say that my voice–which disturbed the white man’s smugness, and his arrogance, and his complacency—that my voice helped to save America from a grave, possibly even a fatal catastrophe.
 
To speculate about dying doesn’t disturb me as it might some people. I never have felt that I would live to become an old man. Even before I was a Muslim—when I was a hustler in the ghetto jungle, and then a criminal in prison, it always stayed on my mind that I would die a violent death. In fact, it runs in my family. My father and most of his brothers died by violence—my father because of what he believed in. To come right down to it, if I take the kind of things in which I believe, then add to that the kind of temperament that I have, plus the one hundred percent dedication I have to whatever I believe in—these are ingredients which make it just about impossible for me to die of old age.
 
P387
I believe that it would be almost impossible to find anywhere in America a black man who has lived further down in the mud of human society than I have; or a black man who has been any more ignorant than I have been; or a black man who has suffered more anguish during his life than I have. But it is only after the deepest darkness that the greatest joy can come; it is only after slavery and prison that the sweetest appreciation of freedom can come.
 
P388
Every morning when I wake up, now I regard it as having another borrowed day.
 
Those who hunt a man need to remember that a jungle also contains those who hunt the hunters.
 
I know, too, that I could suddenly die at the hands of some white racists. Or I could die at the hands of some negro hired by the white man. Or it could be some brainwashed negro acting on his own idea that by eliminating me he would be helping out the white man, because I talk about the white man the way I do. Anyway, now, each day I live as if I am already dead….
 
P389
He will make use of me dead, as he made use of me alive, as a convenient symbol of “hatred”—and that will help him to escape facing the truth that all I have been doing is holding up a mirror to reflect, to show, the history of unspeakable crimes that his race has committed against my race.
 
And since I have been some kind of “leader” of black people here in the racist society ofAmerica, I have been more reassured each time the white man resisted me, or attacked me harder—because each time made me more certain that I was on the right track in the American black man’s best interests. The racist white man’s opposition automatically made me know that I did offer the black man something worthwhile.
 
P402
But this was the kind of evidence which caused many close observers of the Malcolm X phenomenon to declare in absolute seriousness that he was the only negro in America who could either start a race riot—or stop one. When I once quoted this to him…he told me tartly, “I don’t know if I could start one. I don’t know if I would stop one.”
-Alex Haley
 
P461
Here–at this final hour, in this quiet place, Harlem has come to bid farewell to one of its brightest hopes—extinguished now, and gone from us forever….Many will ask what Harlem finds to honor in this stormy, controversial and bold young captain—and we will smile…they will say that he is of hate—a fanatic, a racist—who can only bring evil to the cause for which you struggle! And we will answer and say unto them: Did you ever talk to Brother Malcolm? Did you ever touch him, or have him smile at you? Did you ever really listen to him? Did he ever do a mean thing? Was he ever himself associated with violence or any public disturbance? For if you did you would know him. And if you knew him you would know why we must honor him: Malcolm was our manhood, our living, black manhood! This was his meaning to his people. And, in honoring him, we honor the best in ourselves…and we will know him then for what he was and is—a Prince—our own black shining Prince!—who didn’t hesitate to die, because he loved us so.
-Ossie Davis
 
P463
But he was the most electric personality I have ever met, and I still can’t quite conceive him dead. It still feels to me as if he has just gone into some next chapter, to be written by historians.
-Alex Haley
 
Coffee is the only thing I like integrated…
 
Here lies a yellow man killed by a black man fighting for the white man who killed all the red men
 
White man so quick to tell the black man look what I have done for you. No! Look what you have done to us!
 
Black man dealing with white man who put our eyes out now he condemns us because we can’t see
 
It is the hinge that squeaks that gets the grease
 
I would put prison second to college as the best place for a man to go if he needs to do some thinking. If he’s motivated in prison, he can change his life.
 
Gandhi twisted a knot in the british lions tale
 
In order to get something, you had to look like you already had something
 
Crime existed only to the extent that the law cooperated with it..the criminal, the law, the politicians were inseperable
 
African Presidents:

  • Gamel Abdel Nasser-Egypt
  • Julius K. Nyerere-Tanzania
  • Nnamoi Azikiwe-Nigeria
  • Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah-Ghana
  • Sekou Toure-Guinea
  • Jomo Kenyatta-Kenya
  • Milton Obote (PM)Uganda

Other personalities:

  • James Baldwin
  • John Griffin-Black like me
  • Richard Wright
  • Robert Williams
  • Sobokwe-Crisis in Black & White
  • Charles Silberman
  • Bayard Rustin
  • John Brown
  • Adam Clayton Powell
  • Wallace D Fard
  • Norfolkprison colony

Vocab

  • Apoplectic
  • Resplendent
  • Titillating
  • Portentous
  • Recanted
  • Contrite
  • Rankling
  • Auspicious
  • Chafed
  • Phalanx
  • Gait
  • Skulked
  • Virility
  • Vise
  • Spiel
  • Propensity
  • Platitude
  • Demonology

 

 

 

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