Malcolm X, whose birth name was Malcolm Little was a pivotal historic figure in the civil rights movement in the USA. Malcolm X was a friend of champion boxer, Muhammad Ali. This book describes a vacation that his family spent with the with the prize fighter in Miami.

Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Malcolm spent a considerable part of his childhood in Lansing, Michigan. His dad, Reverend Earl Little, a Baptist Minister died when he was six years old.

Due to the impact associated with his father’s death, his mother suffered health challenges. She was later unable to care for Malcolm and the remainder of his siblings.

As a result, they were sent to foster homes or other family members.  Malcolm X was a top performer at school. As a child, Malcolm wanted to be a lawyer but was discouraged from pursuing this profession by his eighth grade teacher. This teacher suggested that he should become a carpenter instead.

Malcolm X was influenced by Nat Turner. Nat Turner was an African American who led the only two day rebellion of slaves and free blacks in Virginia in August 21st, 1831. Malcolm X learnt of Nat Turner from his reading at prison.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X gives a detailed account of the ups and downs of his life. This book was completed with the assistance of Alex Haley. He correctly predicted that he would be murdered before his book appeared.

There are articles on this blog the life lessons of several other influential personalities such as Kobe Bryant, Phil Knight, Lee Iacocca, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr and Mahatma Gandhi. In addition, there is an article where I have selected the greatest life lessons from these successful leaders. Feel free to click on these previous links to explore these content.

The following were 5 lessons from his life story from my perspective were inspirational:

He was a strategic thinker

At age 12 Malcolm X demonstrated that he was a strategic thinker. He detailed how he outsmarted older men who had set up a rabbit hunting strategy.

The older men devised a strategy where they sent a dog to jump a rabbit; the rabbit will get away and run back to the hole.

Before arriving back at the hole, Malcolm ensured that the rabbit would pass him and his brother first who had the first opportunity to shoot.

Malcolm explained:-

“All I had done was improve on their strategy, and it was the beginning of a very important lesson in life- that anytime you find someone more successful than you are, especially when you’re both engaged in the same business- you know they’re doing something that you aren’t” (page 20).

He was brave

Malcolm X showed how brave he was even at a young age to ask his older sister Ella if he could move to Boston.

This move was prompted by the words of his eight grade English teacher, Mr. Ostrowski. When his teacher asked what he wanted to become he responded that he wanted to be a lawyer.

Mr. Ostrowski instead told him that being a lawyer was not a realistic goal for him. This teacher encouraged him to become a carpenter. This feedback greatly disturbed Malcolm which promoted his decision to move to Boston.

Malcolm described moving to Boston:-

“No physical move in my life has been more pivotal or profound in its repercussions” (page 38).

He was positive

Despite various challenges, Malcolm X believed that great things could come out of tough situations. He made his worst of times his best of times. 

He utilised his time in prison to read since he left school after the eighth grade.

Malcolm concluded:-

“All our experiences fuse into our personality. Everything that ever happened to us is an ingredient “(page 150).

He bloomed where he was planted

Malcolm was involved in burglary and theft with his friend Shorty, Sophia and her sister. This landed this group in jail. While in prison his sister got a request approved for him to be transferred to Norfolk Prison Colony where there was library.

Malcolm began reading as a part of his daily routine. In addition, he began debating which was held weekly among the inmates.

Malcolm described debating as:

“In the prison, debating, speaking to a crowd was as exhilarating to me as the discovery of knowledge through reading had been” (page 184).

The Importance of Reading

While in prison Malcolm started reading.  He was unable to write in a straight line and requested stationary and began learning.

He widened his vocabulary by copying the dictionary. He described in his book how he copied everything on the front page of the dictionary including the punctuation marks. Reading opened up a new world to him.

Malcolm described prison life:

“From then until the time I left that prison, in every free moment I had, if I was not reading in the library, I was reading on my bunk. Between my visitors and reading of books, months passed without my even thinking about being imprisoned. In fact, up to then, I never had been so truly free on my life “(page 173).

Final Thoughts

Malcolm X autobiography was a brilliant and interesting read.  From my viewpoint, the most powerful life lesson is how reading and new knowledge can transform one’s life.

Malcolm X was able to radically transform into a dynamic leader through reading from prison.

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5 Significant Lessons From The Life of Malcolm X

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