Last Updated on May 17, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 766
Lemuel Hassan: minister of Detroit’s Temple Number One
Sister Clara Muhammad: Elijah Muhammad’s wife
Mother Marie: Elijah Muhammad’s mother
In Norfolk Prison Colony, Malcolm devotes himself to studying the teachings of Muhammad. In addition, he reads the classics, and studies philosophy, science, and world history. Each day, he writes a letter to Muhammad, professing his devotion to the Nation of Islam. He writes letters to his former friends and acquaintances from his hustling days, telling them about his new-found religion. He writes letters, protesting “how the white man’s society was responsible for the black man’s condition in this wilderness of North America,” to various politicians—the Mayor of Boston, the Governor, and to Harry S. Truman, the President of the United States!
He is shocked and dismayed when he discovers that Reginald, for whom he has had so much respect, has been suspended from the Nation of Islam because of Reginald’s illicit relationship with the secretary of the Nation of Islam’s New York Temple.
Malcolm is transferred back to the Charlestown Prison, ostensibly because he refused to take an inoculation. Malcolm is certain, however, that the real reason for the transfer is his affiliation and conversion to the religion of Islam.
Upon his release from prison in 1952, Malcolm returns to Detroit to continue his Islamic studies. He lives with Wilfred and his family, and works as a salesman in a furniture store managed by Wilfred.
Malcolm yearns to prove his commitment to The Nation of Islam. He is thrilled when he meets Elijah Muhammad for the first time at a Muslim rally in Chicago in 1952. In an effort to increase Nation of Islam membership, Malcolm initiates a recruitment drive, and tirelessly visits Detroit’s bars, poolrooms, and streets. The membership of Detroit’s Temple One nearly triples.
Malcolm changes his last name from “Little” to “X,” to symbolize the long-lost African name that he never knew. With encouragement from Minister Lemuel Hassan, Malcolm begins preaching in temple, and electrifies his audience. He continues working in various factories while spreading the teachings of Muhammad.
One day, an F.B.I. agent visits Malcolm at work to find out why he has not registered for the Korean War draft. Malcolm explains that, as a former prison convict, he did not think he would be accepted into the army. Actually, Malcolm knows that ex-convicts can serve in the army; he was attempting to outwit the agent. When Malcolm goes to the draft board to register, he is more forthright about his reasons for not registering earlier. He explains that he is “a conscientious objector.... I told them that when the white man asked me to go off somewhere and fight and maybe die to preserve the way the white man treated the black man in America, then my conscience made me object.” He is given a deferment.
In Chapters 11 and 12, Malcolm continues to read and educate himself about black people’s long and tragic history in America. He learns more and more about the teachings of Muhammad. The reader sees Malcolm’s transformation as a process of spiritual and intellectual growth. In this stage of his life, Malcolm is using those skills that made him a successful street hustler—his eloquence and intuition—to become a successful, well-respected minister for the Nation of Islam.
The language that Malcolm uses to stir up his temple audience is provocative and evokes anger. He presents a scathing indictment of white people, declaring, “That rapist slavemaster who emasculated the black man ... with threats, with fear ... until even today the black man lives with fear of the white man in his heart! Lives even today under the heel of the white man!”
In contrast, the language Malcolm uses in these chapters to cite the historical references of black people’s mistreatment by white people is scholarly and erudite. He chronicles the history of other non-white ethnic groups—Indians and Chinese people, for example—and describes the prejudices they have encountered throughout the centuries, as well.
Referring to the present time (when he wrote his autobiography in the early 1960s), Malcolm is still convinced that the plight of black people in the United States today is far worse than that of other non-white people in the world. He writes, “The American black man is the world’s most shameful case of minority oppression.”
At the conclusion of Chapter 12, the reader is again forewarned of Malcolm’s impending conflict. He writes, “In the years to come, I was going to have to face a psychological and spiritual crisis.”
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