The Autobiography of Malcolm X traces the life of one of the most influential, controversial, and thoughtful people of the 20th century.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
In the informational text “America’s Most Infamous Hate Group: The KKK,” Jessica McBirney discusses the KKK’s various waves of activity and popularity in America.
Introduce this text before students begin reading the book, in order to provide background knowledge on the history of the Ku Klux Klan. Ask students to consider the impact that white supremacist organizations, like the Ku Klux Klan and the Black Legions, had on Malcolm's family and the lives of African Americans.
“Herd Behavior” describes how individuals change when they are part of a crowd.
Teachers may choose to introduce this text after students read Chapter 3: ""Homeboy,"" in order to help students better analyze the choices that Malcolm makes once he arrives in Boston.
Muhammad Ali’s legacy as a symbol of courage and a challenge to the status quo is remembered in light of his passing.
Introduce this text after students finish reading Chapter 6: "Detroit Red." Then, have students compare the actions and motivations of Malcolm during World War II to the views of Muhammad Ali during the Vietnam War.
In this article, Romeo Vitelli, Ph.D., examines people like Frank Abagnale, the con artist, to determine whether or not the act of cheating—and getting away with it—can be a positive motivator.
As Chapter 7: "Hustler" progresses, teachers may choose to introduce this text and allow students to evaluate whether a “cheater’s high” led Malcolm to continue to take greater risks as a criminal.
Stanley Tookie Williams III (1953-2005) was a leader of the Crips, an infamous gang that began in Los Angeles in 1969. He spent much of his life in prison. Today, he is well known for the writing that he did while in jail, which included anti-gang activist literature and children’s books. When he was executed in 2005, his death sparked controversy surrounding the death penalty.
Introduce this text to students after they have read Chapter 10: "Satan," and ask them to compare the experiences of Stanley Williams to those of Malcolm. How did prison impact these two men differently?
In “Teaching Shakespeare in a Maximum Security Prison,” Professor Laura Bates discusses teaching Shakespeare in a maximum security prison.
Teachers may choose to introduce this text after students have read Chapter 11: "Saved" and ask them to compare the experiences that Malcolm had to those of Laura Bates and her students.
Ovid (43 BCE – 17/18 CE), or Publius Ovidius Naso, was a Roman poet best known for the Metamorphoses, which now remains an important source of classical mythology. In this classic myth, Daedalus attempts to escape imprisonment on the island of Crete by crafting a pair of wax wings for himself and his son, Icarus.
Introduce this text after students have read Chapter 15: "Icarus," and then ask students to evaluate whether or not Malcolm X was deserving of the title, “Icarus.”
Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) was an American psychologist who wrote extensively about human behavior, motivations, and needs. This passage explores his best known work: the hierarchy of needs.
Introduce this text after students complete Chapter 17: "Mecca." Then, have students determine where Malcolm X sat on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. How has Malcolm’s relation to Maslow’s pyramid evolved throughout his life?
Claude McKay (1889-1948) was a Jamaican-American writer and poet who was a seminal figure during the Harlem Renaissance. In this poem, McKay discusses facing death and other obstacles with courage and dignity, and reflects upon his perspective on the black experience during early 20th century America.
Have students read this poem after completing Chapter 19: "1965." Then, have students compare how Malcolm faced death to the way that the speaker in McKay’s poem faces death.
Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) was an influential African American poet, the son of freed slaves, and friend of Frederick Douglass. In “We Wear the Mask,” Dunbar introduces the idea of hiding behind a metaphorical mask.
Introduce this poem after students complete Chapter Two: "Mascot," to help compare and contrast the speaker’s perspective in Dunbar’s poem to Malcolm’s perspective as a young man growing up in Michigan.