1962. After an interview that he had gave him for the magazine “Playboy”, an editor contacts Alex Haley to suggest him writing the biography of the one who is considered to be “the angriest Black of America”: Malcolm X.
Haley suggests the idea to Malcolm X. The latter agrees two days later. Both men will thus meet two at three o’clock by days during more than year. The result will be this powerful and poignant « Autobiography ».
Nevertheless, the writing process was far from being simple. Malcolm X, even though he had agreed to come out to light, does not hide his mistrust towards the black intellectuals of whom Haley is a member – these “Uncle Tom” that he accuses of being the “doggies” of the Whites. It will take the journalist-writer some time to win the leader’s trust. He is rather in a period of stress because of his recent commitments, for he is persuaded to be watched by the FBI. Not only that, but also threatened with death by his former allies who will not hesitate any longer to set his house on fire, or murder him.
Therefore, any reader would guess this book was written in an atmosphere of the tensest paranoia; even the ending seems to end roughly.
If Malcolm’s murder was tragic though, one can logically say that it ends a life made of hatred and violence.
From the murder of his father –Baptist priest and member of the Marcus Garvey movement- by the Black Legion (a racist and violent small group close to the KKK/Ku Klux Klaan); to his delinquent adolescence lugged by the Social Services of host families in homes to detention centers; until his criminal’s life in the ghetto of Harlem, New York, where he lands while only 17, we begin discovering the journey of a young Black as there are so many others in America at that time: ignoramus, lost, “future-less”, whose hope is even trapped in the hands of a racist community.
However, in this life of a supposed loser, a tipping point is going to change the course of things.
1946. He is 10-year-old condemned person of prison for burglaries. Yet the prison is going to transform him: that is where he discovers Islam. Having said that, The Islam in question is far from being moderated. Disputed even by the Muslims of the Middle East, Malcolm adheres in fact to fanatics’ sect, the Nation of the Islam, led by a visionary, Elijah Muhammad, whose religious ideology was strongly filled with anti-white racism.
For these Black Muslims, the Whites are indeed nothing more than devils with human faces, and, in order to defend themselves from the latter, they preach a sort of racially segregated world where both races would live firmly to part.
When released in 1952, Malcolm X (in prison he denied his surname, Little, because it reminded him of the slave situation of his family in the past) will travel through the country, establishing mosques, preaching Elijah Muhammad’s message, vomiting his hatred of the Whites. His success and charisma rapidly make the number two of the sect; and when the latter rapidly expanded, pressuring the Whites as much as it did for the Blacks followers of the integration, it is quite naturally that Malcolm X became a celebrity that the media has yet left to shadows.
The man is at the same time popular and hated. He makes a scandal, divides, and becomes a Black figure.
Racist and accused of being a moralizer of hatred, his pilgrimage in Mecca in 1964 is nevertheless going to change him. It is another deeply moving tipping point, the other way around this time.
Following this Mecca pilgrimage, he is indeed going to become another man. He rejects the violence, abandons his racist prose and, as a logical result, begins to take his distances from the Nation of Islam and its leader, with whom relationships began to crack. The thing is: we do not leave such a movement so easily and, after an intense period of threats and tensions during which Malcolm X tries to rebuild himself, creating this time his own movement (The Organization for the Afro-American Unity). Members of the sect will eventually murder him during a meeting in 1965.
We close such a book with a rear-taste of waste in the mouth. The man, endowed with such charisma, with such experience of life, exerted himself in the hatred and the violence for nothing. We tell ourselves that his talent would have been able to serve a big cause. “Malcolm X died from what he preached » would say some people; yes, but the man was to change… Who can say what he would have become?