The Autobiography of Malcolm X

by Malcolm X, Alex Haley

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How does Malcolm X introduce his father in his autobiography?

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The author uses a direct quote from his mother to start the autobiography. She stands up to the Ku Klux Klan, and she is an independent woman who has already made Malcolm and his siblings visible.

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In the first pages of his memoir, Malcolm X introduces his father as a man of fearless character who fought for black liberty and dignity. His father believed that black people could never achieve freedom in the United States, and so he advocated for them to return to Africa.


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the story opens, the Ku Klux Klan is agitating Malcolm's family before he is born because of his father, who has been openly preaching "trouble" by encouraging black people to leave America.

According to Malcolm, his father dedicated his life and took great risks to help black people achieve "freedom, independence and self-respect." He also characterizes his father as an angry man who had been politicized by the death of three of his brothers through violence, including one who was killed in a lynching.

Malcolm, as his memoir shows, follows in his father's footsteps in fighting for black dignity and independence.

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How does the author introduce Malcolm X’s father?

In the autobiography transcribed by Alex Haley, Malcolm X's father, Earl Little, is introduced within terrorizing, yet auspicious, circumstances:

When my mother was pregnant with me, she told me later, a party of hooded Ku Klux Klan riders galloped up to our home in Omaha, Nebraska, one night. Surrounding the house, brandishing their shotguns and rifles, they shouted for my father to come out. My mother went to the front door and opened it. Standing where they could see her pregnant condition, she told them that she was alone with her three children, and that my father was away, preaching, in Milwaukee. The Klansmen shouted threats and warnings at her that we had better get out of town because 'the good Christian white people' were not going to stand for my father's 'spreading trouble' among the 'good' Negroes of Omaha with the 'back to Africa' preachings of Marcus Garvey (3).

This is the first paragraph of the autobiography. Here, Malcolm X establishes his position, not only within his family narrative, but also—from the womb—within the politics of resistance, as well as contentions with white supremacy. 

Also, despite later accusations of sexism (see: Manning Marable's more objective biography, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention), his mother takes precedence in this narrative. She is the hero, standing firm against armed and disguised vigilantes, protecting her children and making them visible. 

The Klansmen, on the other hand, are presented as cowards, fearful of a man who questions and disrupts their position of unquestioned dominance. Malcolm would evolve into someone who would take a position similar to his father's, but would threaten white supremacy, not merely in his community, but on an international scale.

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