The Autobiography of Malcolm X Chapter 14: Black Muslims

Malcolm X, Alex Haley

Chapter 14: Black Muslims

New People:
Louis Lomax: black journalist who profiles the Nation of Islam in a television documentary

Professor C. Eric Lincoln: black scholar who writes a book about the Nation of Islam

James Hicks: editor of the Amsterdam News, a Harlem newspaper

Summary
The Nation of Islam movement is gaining national, as well as international, prominence. In 1959, two newspapers serving black communities, Harlem’s Amsterdam News and Los Angeles’ Herald Dispatch, begin carrying regular columns written by Malcolm and Elijah Muhammad about the Nation of Islam. Malcolm founds a newspaper, Muhammad Speaks, and visits Africa to spread Elijah Muhammad’s teachings.

However, after a television documentary profiles the Nation of Islam’s ideology about the “devil white man,” public condemnation is swift. Newspapers denounce the movement’s “hate-messengers” and “black supremacists.” Malcolm appears on several radio and television programs to defend the Nation of Islam. He appears at mass rallies as Elijah Muhammad’s right-hand man.

Analysis
The fiery speeches of Malcolm and Elijah Muhammad evoke a wide range of audience emotions—from shock and rage to admiration and self-pride. Their speeches are filled with emotionally charged words and images, meant to arouse and incite listeners. Calling white people “oppressors,” Elijah Muhammad declares, “A thousand ways every day, the white man is telling you ‘You can’t live here. You can’t enter here’ ... You have tilled his fields! Cooked his food! Washed his clothes! ... So let us, the black people, separate ourselves from this white man slavemaster.”

Malcolm continues to worship Muhammad, who is a father-figure to him. As the chapter concludes, Muhammad advises Malcolm, “Brother Malcolm, I want you to become well known ... You will grow to be hated when you become well known. Because usually people get jealous of public figures.” Malcolm comments, in retrospect, on this remark, saying, “Nothing that Mr. Muhammad ever said to me was more prophetic.” Once again, Malcolm is forewarning the reader about a future conflict between the two men.