Examine the importance of reading in changing Malcolm X's life.

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Reading was a transformative part of Malcolm X ’s life. Prior to his time incarcerated, he was heavily involved in criminal activity and had little time or interest in educational pursuits, therefore not spending much time reading. However, in prison, he took up books to pass the time, which changed...

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Reading was a transformative part of Malcolm X’s life. Prior to his time incarcerated, he was heavily involved in criminal activity and had little time or interest in educational pursuits, therefore not spending much time reading. However, in prison, he took up books to pass the time, which changed his entire worldview. He realized that literacy was the key to African-American growth, and that keeping them illiterate or uninterested in books would keep African Americans oppressed. His knowledge of literature and philosophy also changed him into a highly educated man.

An additional benefit to Malcolm X was his exposure to Islam through reading. Learning about this religion and its philosophies helped develop his worldview greatly and encouraged him to latch onto this religion as a major tenant in his life.

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For Malcolm X, reading proved to be transformational.  One reason why reading changed his life was that his time reading in prison was diametrically opposed to anything he did on the outside.  His life as a hustler and petty criminal involved little to do with reading classical texts.  Reading enabled Malcolm X to exercise his mind, expanding it to embrace the totality of spirituality that facilitated his conversion.  Malcolm X understood reading to be a source of empowerment.  He recognized that the more people of color that could not or would not read, the greater control White society held over people of color.  Reading was Malcolm X's first means by which he was able to empower himself, reasserting voice in a world that had silenced it.

At the same time, reading was able to bring him closer to a notion of Islam that would guide his life.  For Malcolm X, the only way he was able to fully embrace the power of Islam as a force of change in his life was through reading Islamic texts and continuing his Islamic studies through reading.  Reading becomes the means by which he is brought closer to Allah.  It is through reading in which his religious conversion is aided.  Malcolm X attributes reading as something that aids him in being able to fully advance as a human being.  In this, reading provides nourishment for both the brain and soul.  This enables Malcolm X to be a liberated individual, one who is free to question and debate the merits of an exclusionary social and political order.  Reading gives him this power, something he lacked prior to engaging in a full immersion in reading.

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