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Malcolm X, Research Paper Example

Pages: 5

Words: 1392

Research Paper

After careful review of biographies of Malcolm Little (X) and viewing the movie starring Denzel Washington, the movie does portray quite an accurate description of Malcolm Little’s life. The movie, just as any movie, was more embellished than any biography could ever be and it gave a true depiction of some of the things that happened to Malcolm X during his lifetime. According to an article entitled “Malcolm X” in Religious Leaders of America, “his family suffered severe persecution from the Ku Klux Klan because his father, a Baptist preacher who espoused the black separatism of Marcus Garvey, was vigorous in denouncing the oppression of the Blacks” (n.p.). This was clearly shown in the movie as the Ku Klux Klan bashed in the family’s windows at one point and then later burned down their house after they moved to Lansing, Michigan in 1929 (“Biography”). The movie shows this in dramatic forms and gives the viewer a true idea of the pain that Malcolm X identified with as a child. Both the movie and the biographies explain Malcolm X’s misfortune in reference to schooling and being taken from his family at such a young age. Though Malcolm X was very intelligent and had desires to become a lawyer, he had more going against him (or so he thought). The biographies and the movie both explain the reasons in which Malcolm X chose delinquency over success. The article “Biography” from the Malcolm X official website states “Malcolm was a smart, focused student. He graduated from junior high at the top of his class. However, when a favorite teacher told Malcolm his dream of being a lawyer was ‘no realistic goal for a nigger,’ Malcolm lost interest in school” (p.1). The movie shows this as a pivotal moment in Malcolm X’s life. After he lost interest in school, he became delinquent. His father was killed and his mother became mentally ill (“Malcolm X,” Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History). At this point, Malcolm X was sent to a detention home in Mason, Michigan and his siblings became wards of the state (“Malcolm X,” Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History).

The movie and the biographies were quite consistent in reference to Malcolm X’s early adulthood, his delinquency after moving to Boston and Harlem and his prison time for burglary. According to the article entitled “Malcolm X” in Religious Leaders of America “he soon became active in the underworld in Boston and Harlem, in the areas of drugs, prostitution, and gambling” (n.p.). “In 1946, Malcolm Little was sentenced to ten years in prison for burglary” (“Malcolm X,” Religious Leaders of America). The movie depicts this stage in his life and shows us his process in which he is converted to a Muslim and the Nation of Islam. Since Malcolm X really was intellectual, he used his time in prison to read and learn the Muslim religion and studied the Nation of Islam. The movie shows his process of reading, learning, writing, and understanding the culture and the importance of the organization.

After Malcolm X’s release from prison in 1952 (after serving seven years of his sentence), “he soon became a minister in the Nation of Islam and its most effective recruiter and apologist, speaking against black self-hate and on behalf of black self-esteem” (“Malcolm X,” Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History). One major difference in this section of Malcolm’s life between the biographies and the movie is that the movie portrayed Malcolm as a pristine leader who was loved and adored and listened to by many. However, the Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History states “initially his black nationalist message was unpopular in the African-American community. The media, both white and black, portrayed him as a teacher of hate and a promoter of violence” (“Malcolm X”). Both the biographies of Malcolm X’s life and the movie show that he was devoted to Elijah Muhammad and he would have given his own life for him and the cause. However, he soon came to find out that Muhammad’s teachings were not as true as he believed them to be. According to the article entitled “Malcolm X” in Religious Leaders of America, “by the early 1960s, Malcolm X had enemies within the Muslim movement. Some thought he was too powerful; some were jealous of his prominence” (n.p.). Shortly after the death of President John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X was suspended from the movement. This was shown in the movie and is clear throughout many of the written biographies. At this point, he felt it was his time to preach the right thing and he began his own organizations and began to lead in his own way.

Since Malcolm X was no longer under the control of Muhammad, he began his own organizations. The movie did not portray these organizations as much as his biographies do. The movie states that he did make his own organizations but does not give the viewer an idea of what those organizations did or how they acted. According to the article entitled “Malcolm X” in Religious Leaders of America, Malcolm X founded two new organizations: “Muslim Mosque, Inc. and the Organization of Afro-American Unity” (n.p.). As seen throughout the movie and discussed thoroughly throughout his biographies, his turning point in understanding was during his Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca in 1964. It is seen in the movie and throughout the biographies that Malcolm X learned that people of all races could work together for a common goal. “He soon concluded that all Whites were not evil after all, and he moved toward a more orthodox understanding of Islam than that preached by Elijah Muhammad” (“Malcolm X,” Religious Leaders of America).

Malcolm X grew and began to understand the Muslim culture and realized that human rights (civil rights) were our God given destiny. He continued to work with all sorts of organization in order to make a difference in the world for the Afro-Americans. Unfortunately, by doing this, he followed in the footsteps of his father and the Nation of Islam (NOI) soon became his enemy. According to the article entitled “Biography” by the Malcolm X Official Website, “FBI informants working undercover in the NOI warned officials that Malcolm had been marked for assassination. (One undercover officer had even been ordered to help plant a bomb in Malcolm’s car)” (n.p.). This is shown in the movie when the agent informs Malcolm X of the instructions by the NOI, but he stated that he could not do it as he loved Malcolm very much. “On February 14, 1965 the home where Malcolm, Betty and their four daughters lived in East Elmhurst, New York was firebombed” (“Biography”). It was with great luck that the entire family escaped that firebomb without physical injury. However, Malcolm X was not so lucky only a week later. “At a speaking engagement in the Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom on February 21, 1965 three gunmen rushed Malcolm onstage. They shot him 15 times at close range. The 39-year-old was pronounced dead on arrival at New York’s Columbia Presbyterian Hospital” (“Biography”).

In conclusion, the movie gives great detail into the life of Malcolm X and does not leave a whole lot out in reference to his biographies. The biggest thing left out was his attempt at his own organizations, what he did with them, and how he organized them. The movie gave a clear, confident understanding of his life from the very beginning to the very end. As any movie, things may have been embellished and given a lot of description where it may not have been in real life, but this movie explains exactly what Malcolm X’s biographies claim themselves. He was a man who started off bright and willing to be educated, to someone who went to the streets for drugs, prostitution and gambling, to someone who spent time in prison, to someone who was able to finally get his act together and become the true, born leader that he was always meant to be. Lawyer or activist, Malcolm X was admired, loved, and deeply adored by many!

Works Cited

“Biography.” Malcolm X Official Website. 23 June 2012. Web. 29 August 2012.
“Malcolm X.” Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History (2008): n. pag. Web. 29 August 2012.

“Malcolm X.” Religious Leaders of America (2005): n. pag. Web. 29 August 2012.

Malcolm X. Dir. Spike Lee. Perf. Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett, and Spike Lee. 1992. Film.

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