The Autobiography of Malcolm X is the life story of Malcolm Little: son of a Baptist minister, wide-eyed teenager in Boston, street hustler and prison inmate in New York, faithful and energetic member of the Nation of Islam, and, finally, Muslim pilgrim determined to create an organization for all blacks regardless of their religion. It is also a tale of, as the author puts it, a "homemade'' education pursued in the schools, on the streets, in prison, and at the feet of his mentor Elijah Muhammad. Many considered Malcolm X's separatist philosophies (later softened) disturbing and in direct opposition to those of the period's other well-known black activists, including Martin Luther King, Jr., who argued for integration and non-violent confrontation.
While the book received high praise when it was first published in 1965, it immediately engendered questions about its authorship. The book is unusual in that it was transcribed and constructed by Alex Haley from thousands of hours of conversations he had with Malcolm X in the early 1960s. In fact, while Malcolm X did read drafts of the book, he never lived to see it in print. In early 1965, a trio suspected to have been associated with the Nation of Islam gunned him down as he was about to give a speech in Harlem. Haley, then a recently retired Coast Guard member working as a journalist, went on to write the critically acclaimed family history, Roots.
In 1966, The Autobiography of Malcolm X received an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and in 1992, it was produced as a film.