The Autobiography of Malcolm X
The Autobiography of Malcolm X

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

I’m sorry to say that the subject I most disliked was mathematics. I have thought about it. I think the reason was that mathematics leaves no room for argument. If you made a mistake, that was all there was to it. (Location 653)

And then she started hearing older girls in grade school whispering the hush-hush that “niggers” were such sexual giants and athletes, and she started growing up secretly wanting to try one. Finally, right in her own house, with her family away, she threatened a Negro man who worked for her father that if he didn’t take her she would swear he tried rape. He had no choice, except that he quit working for them. And from then until she finished high school, she managed it several times with other Negroes (Location 1718)

I remember one really peculiar case of this—a white girl who never missed a single night in the Savoy Ballroom. She fascinated my friend Sammy; he had watched her several times. Dancing only with Negroes, she seemed to go nearly into a trance. If a white man asked her to dance, she would refuse. Then when the place was ready to close, early in the morning, she would let a Negro take her as far as the subway entrance. And that was it. She never would tell anyone her name, let alone reveal where she lived. (Location 1806)

I was a true hustler—uneducated, unskilled at anything honorable, and I considered myself nervy and cunning enough to live by my wits, exploiting any prey that presented itself. I would risk just about anything. (Location 2062)

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Full-time hustlers never can relax to appraise what they are doing and where they are bound. As is the case in any jungle, the hustler’s every waking hour is lived with both the practical and the subconscious knowledge that if he ever relaxes, if he ever slows down, the other hungry, restless foxes, ferrets, wolves, and vultures out there with him won’t hesitate to make him their prey. (Location 2066)

The suits that I wore, the finest, I bought hot for about thirty-five to fifty dollars. I made it my rule never to go after more than I needed to live on. (Location 2079)

one could be as lazy as he wanted, if he would only use his head, (Location 2189)

country’s entire social, political and economic structure, the criminal, the law, and the politicians were actually inseparable partners. (Location 2206)

West Indian Archie had the kind of photographic memory that put him among the elite of numbers runners. He never wrote down your number; even in the case of combination plays, he would just nod. He was able to file all the numbers in his head, and write them down for the banker only when he turned in his money. This made him the ideal runner because cops could never catch him with any betting slips. (Location 2212)

I’ve often reflected upon such black veteran numbers men as West Indian Archie. If they had lived in another kind of society, their exceptional mathematical talents might have been better used. But they were black. (Location 2215)

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The hypocritical white man will talk about the Negro’s “low morals.” But who has the world’s lowest morals if not whites? And not only that, but the “upper-class” whites! (Location 2299)

I believed that a man should do anything that he was slick enough, or bad and bold enough, to do and that a woman was nothing but another commodity. Every word I spoke was hip or profane. I would bet that my working vocabulary wasn’t two hundred words. Even Shorty, whose apartment I now again shared, wasn’t prepared for how I lived and thought—like a predatory animal. Sometimes I would catch him watching me. (Location 2504)

Cocaine produces, for those who sniff its powdery white crystals, an illusion of supreme well-being, and a soaring over-confidence in both physical and mental ability. You think you could whip the heavyweight champion, and that you are smarter than anybody. There was also that feeling of timelessness. And there were intervals of ability to recall and review things that had happened years back with an astonishing clarity. (Location 2514)

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He had never been able to keep a white woman any length of time, though, because he was too good to them, and, as I have said, any woman, white or black, seems to get bored with that. (Location 2533)

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think I really was at least slightly out of my mind. I viewed narcotics as most people regard food. I wore my guns as today I wear my neckties. Deep down, I actually believed that after living as fully as humanly possible, one should then die violently. I expected then, as I still expect today, to die at any time. But then, I think I deliberately invited death in many, sometimes insane, ways. (Location 2577)

Burglary, properly executed, though it had its dangers, offered the maximum chances of success with the minimum risk. If you did your job so that you never met any of your victims, it first lessened your chances of having to attack or perhaps kill someone. (Location 2625)

I can give you a very good tip if you want to keep burglars out of your house. A light on for the burglar to see is the very best single means of protection. One of the ideal things is to leave a bathroom light on all night. The bathroom is one place where somebody could be, for any length of time, at any time of the night, and he would be likely to hear the slightest strange sound. The burglar, knowing this, won’t try to enter. It’s also the cheapest possible protection. The kilowatts are a lot cheaper than your valuables. (Location 2689)

Drugs helped me push the thought to the back of my mind. They were the center of my life. I had gotten to the stage where every day I used enough drugs—reefers, cocaine, or both—so that I felt above any worries, any strains. (Location 2734)

I had sunk to the very bottom of the American white man’s society when—soon now, in prison—I found Allah and the religion of Islam and it completely transformed my life. (Location 2807)

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I am not saying there shouldn’t be prisons, but there shouldn’t be bars. Behind bars, a man never reforms. He will never forget. He never will get completely over the memory of the bars. (Location 2828)

So, feeling I had time on my hands, I did begin a correspondence course in English. When the mimeographed listings of available books passed from cell to cell, I would put my number next to titles that appealed to me which weren’t already taken. Through the correspondence exercises and lessons, some of the mechanics of grammar gradually began to come back to me. After about a year, I guess, I could write a decent and legible letter. About then, too, influenced by having heard Bimbi often explain word derivations, I quietly started another correspondence course—in Latin. Under Bimbi’s tutelage, too, I had gotten myself some little cellblock swindles going. For packs of cigarettes, I beat just about anyone at dominoes. I always had several cartons of cigarettes in my cell; they were, in prison, nearly as valuable a medium of exchange as money. I booked cigarette and money bets on fights and ball games. I’ll never forget the prison sensation created that day in April, 1947, when Jackie Robinson was brought up to play with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Jackie Robinson had, then, his most fanatic fan in me. When he played, my ear was glued to the radio, and no game ended without my refiguring his average up through his last turn at bat. (Location 2874)

Note: Malcom X in prison - studying

Reginald’s letter was newsy, and also it contained this instruction: “Malcolm, don’t eat any more pork, and don’t smoke any more cigarettes. I’ll show you how to get out of prison.” (Location 2890)

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I said to him, “I don’t eat pork.” The platter then kept on down the table. It was the funniest thing, the reaction, and the way that it spread. In prison, where so little breaks the monotonous routine, the smallest thing causes a commotion of talk. It was being mentioned all over the cell block by night that Satan didn’t eat pork. It made me very proud, in some odd way. One of the universal images of the Negro, in prison and out, was that he couldn’t do without pork. It made me feel good to see that my not eating it had especially startled the white convicts. Later I would learn, when I had read and studied Islam a good deal, that, unconsciously, my first pre-Islamic submission had been manifested. I had experienced, for the first time, the Muslim teaching, “If you will take one step toward Allah—Allah will take two steps toward you.” (Location 2904)

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I read aimlessly, until I learned to read selectively, with a purpose. (Location 2933)

Earth. The black man, original man, built great empires and civilizations and cultures while the white man was still living on all fours in caves. “The devil white man,” down through history, out of his devilish nature, had pillaged, murdered, raped, and exploited every race of man not white. Human history’s greatest crime was the traffic in black flesh when the devil white man went into Africa and murdered and kidnapped to bring to the West in chains, in slave ships, millions of black men, women, and children, who were worked and beaten and tortured as slaves. The devil white man cut these black people off from all knowledge of their own kind, and cut them off from any knowledge of their own language, religion, and past culture, until the black man in America was the earth’s only race of people who had absolutely no knowledge of his true identity. In one generation, the black slave women in America had been raped by the slavemaster white man until there had begun to emerge a homemade, handmade, brainwashed race that was no longer even of its true color, that no longer even knew its true family names. The slavemaster forced his family name upon this rape-mixed race, which the slavemaster began to call “the Negro.” This “Negro” was taught of his native Africa that it was peopled by heathen, black savages, swinging like monkeys from trees. This “Negro” accepted this along with every other teaching of the slavemaster that was designed to make him accept and obey and worship the white man. And where the religion of every other people on earth taught its believers of a God with whom they could identify, a God who at least looked like one of their own kind, the slavemaster injected his Christian religion into this “Negro.” This “Negro” was taught to worship an alien God having the same blond hair, pale skin, and blue eyes as the slavemaster. This religion taught the “Negro” that black was a curse. It taught him to hate everything black, including himself. It taught him that everything white was good, to be admired, respected, and loved. It brainwashed this “Negro” to think he was superior if his complexion showed more of the white pollution of the slavemaster. This white man’s Christian religion further deceived and brainwashed this “Negro” to always turn the other cheek, and grin, and scrape, and bow, and be humble, and to sing, and to pray, and to take whatever was dished out by the devilish white man; and to look for his pie in the sky, and for his heaven in the hereafter, while right here on earth the slavemaster white man enjoyed his heaven. (Location 3015)

I was going through the hardest thing, also the greatest thing, for any human being to do; to accept that which is already within you, and around you. (Location 3050)

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And she told me that key lesson of Mr. Elijah Muhammad’s teachings, which I later learned was the demonology that every religion has, called “Yacub’s History.” (Location 3058)

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Schopenhauer, Kant, Nietzsche, naturally, I read all of those. I don’t respect them; I am just trying to remember some of those whose theories I soaked up (Location 3326)

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in those years. These three, it’s said, laid the groundwork on which the Fascist and Nazi philosophy was built. I don’t respect them because it seems to me that most of their time was spent arguing about things that are not really important. (Location 3328)

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In fact, history’s most tragic result of a mixed, therefore diluted and weakened, ethnic identity has been experienced by a white ethnic group—the Jew in Germany. He had made greater contributions to Germany than Germans themselves had. Jews had won over half of Germany’s Nobel Prizes. Every culture in Germany was led by the Jew; he published the greatest newspaper. Jews were the greatest artists, the greatest poets, composers, stage directors. But those Jews made a fatal mistake—assimilating. (Location 5135)

It was like being on a battlefield—with intellectual and philosophical bullets. It was an exciting battling with ideas. (Location 5236)

Anything I do today, I regard as urgent. No man is given but so much time to accomplish whatever is his life’s work. My life in particular never has stayed fixed in one position for very long. You have seen how throughout my life, I have often known unexpected drastic changes. (Location 6985)