Form and Content
Walter Dean Myers’ Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary follows the brilliant and radical Black Nationalist leader’s life from his birth in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1925 to his assassination in Harlem in 1965. The chapter organization divides Malcolm X’s life into four stages: his difficult childhood, his troubled adolescence, his ministry within the Nation of Islam, and his life subsequent to leaving the Nation of Islam. Using the third-person point of view and a narrative style, the author has written an excellent biography that recounts major events in the subject’s life and analyzes the social forces that influenced him.
The visual materials offered include black-and-white photographs and document reproductions, and the biography also features a table of contents, a superb index, and a chronology. Myers provides an excellent bibliography as evidence of his extensive scholarship in researching the book. Source notes, however, are not referenced in the text.
Malcolm X was the fourth of seven children. Earl Little, his father, was killed when Malcolm was six years old. His mother, Louise, struggled to keep her family together but was committed to a mental institution when Malcolm was fourteen. The family was impoverished. Malcolm had brushes with the law, but was a good student. A turning point in his life came when a teacher discouraged him from becoming a lawyer.
Malcolm later lived in Boston with his half sister Betty. In his teens, he held a variety of jobs but became involved in petty crime. At twenty, he was convicted of burglary and sentenced to eight-to-ten years in a state prison near Boston. His life changed forever when Elijah Muhammad, the spiritual leader of the Nation of Islam, visited him in prison. Muhammad was a Black Nationalist who taught his followers that white people were their enemies and believed in separation of the races. His religion included study from the Qu’ran (Koran), the holy book of Islam. Malcolm Little became a minister in the temple in Detroit and changed his name to Malcolm X. This was an important milestone in his life. He ministered to Muslim congregations in several cities and became a public spokesperson. In 1958, he married Betty, a devout Muslim, and their family grew to include four...
(The entire section is 547 words.)