American Icons: The Autobiography of Malcolm X

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This is an American revolution set down on the page.

When Malcolm X was assassinated at 39, his book nearly died with him. Today The Autobiography of Malcolm X — a favorite of President Obama and Justice Clarence Thomas alike — stands as a milestone in America’s struggle with race. The Autobiography is also a Horatio Alger tale, following a man’s journey from poverty to crime to militancy to wisdom. Muslims look to Malcolm as a figure of tolerance; a tea party activist claims him for the Right; Public Enemy’s Chuck D tells us, “This book is like food. It ain’t McDonalds — it’s sit down at the table and say grace.”

 

The Autobiography of Malcolm X was produced by Derek John and Lu Olkowski and edited by David Krasnow. The actor Dion Graham read passages from the book.

 

Bonus Track: Painting an Icon
Artist Charles Lilly's painting of Malcolm X adorns the cover of the Ballantine Books edition of The Autobiography. In this bonus cut, he explains his famous work.

 

Bonus Track: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar remembers Malcolm X
NBA Hall of Fame member Kareem Abdul-Jabbar talks about hearing Malcolm X speak as a teenager in Harlem and the profound impact The Autobiography had on him in college.

 

Video: Studio 360 tours Alex Haley's writing studio

The first-edition hardcover of <em>The Autobiography of Malcolm X</em>, published in 1965 by Grove Press.
The first-edition hardcover of The Autobiography of Malcolm X, published in 1965 by Grove Press. ( Credit: Melvin Reeves, Permission courtesy of Barney Rosset )
The first-edition Grove Press paperback of <em>The Autobiography of Malcolm X</em>
The first-edition Grove Press paperback of The Autobiography of Malcolm X ( Credit: Kyle Pellett, Permission courtesy of Barney Rosset )
The Ballantine Books paperback edition of <em>The Autobiography of Malcolm X</em>.  This version features a painting of Malcolm X by Charley Lilly.
The Ballantine Books paperback edition of The Autobiography of Malcolm X. This version features a painting of Malcolm X by Charley Lilly. ( Courtesy of Ballantine Books )
Malcolm X didn’t live long enough to see his story in print, but it has had a profound impact on the Civil Rights movement for generations.
Malcolm X didn’t live long enough to see his story in print, but it has had a profound impact on the Civil Rights movement for generations. ( Credit: Marion S. Trikosko, Courtesy of The Library of Congress )
Martin Luther King and Malcolm X waiting for a press conference.
Martin Luther King and Malcolm X waiting for a press conference.

Malcolm X, like Martin Luther King, was a powerful speaker.  But according to Columbia University professor Manning Marable, Malcolm X’s emphasis on self defense, pride, and African heritage, presented a different, more provocative message than King’s.

( Credit: Marion S. Trikosko, Courtesy of The Library of Congress )
Malcolm X was an incredibly persuasive speaker.  Professor Manning Marable says that he converted a white cop from New York who had only heard him through a wiretap.
Malcolm X was an incredibly persuasive speaker. Professor Manning Marable says that he converted a white cop from New York who had only heard him through a wiretap. ( Credit: Herman Hiller, Courtesy of The Library of Congress )
Alex Haley wrote <em>The Autobiography of Malcolm X</em> based on a series of interviews.  Haley and Malcolm initially had very different views on the type of book they would create.
Alex Haley wrote The Autobiography of Malcolm X based on a series of interviews. Haley and Malcolm initially had very different views on the type of book they would create. ( Courtesy of Bill Haley )
Alex Haley’s Hamilton College ID card.  Haley was a writer-in-residence at the college.
Alex Haley’s Hamilton College ID card. Haley was a writer-in-residence at the college. ( Courtesy of Bill Haley )

Barney Rosset, founder of Grove Press, with producer Derek John.  After Malcolm X was murdered, Doubleday decided not to publish The Autobiography of Malcolm X, allowing Grove Press to secure the manuscript for $20,000.

( Credit: Lu Olkowski )
Barney Rosset holds his personal first-edition paperback of <em>The Autobiography of Malcolm X</em>.
Barney Rosset holds his personal first-edition paperback of The Autobiography of Malcolm X. ( Credit: Lu Olkowski )
Artist Charles Lilly stands next to his famous painting of Malcolm X.  The painting is featured on the Ballantine paperback edition of <em>The Autobiography of Malcolm X</em>.
Artist Charles Lilly stands next to his famous painting of Malcolm X. The painting is featured on the Ballantine paperback edition of The Autobiography of Malcolm X. ( Credit: Derek John )
Rapper Chuck D says <em>The Autobiography of Malcolm X</em> is a “book that should be read every 5 years, for a black man especially.”
Rapper Chuck D says The Autobiography of Malcolm X is a “book that should be read every 5 years, for a black man especially.” ( Credit: Henry Adebonojo )
Chuck D, at home with a poster of Malcolm X.
Chuck D, at home with a poster of Malcolm X. ( Credit: Derek John )
A poster of Malcolm X, displayed in the home of rapper Chuck D.
A poster of Malcolm X, displayed in the home of rapper Chuck D. ( Credit: Derek John )
The stadium outside Malcolm X Shabazz High School in Newark, New Jersey.
The stadium outside Malcolm X Shabazz High School in Newark, New Jersey. ( Credit: Derek John )
Lauretta Crawford’s classroom at Malcolm X Shabazz High School.
Lauretta Crawford’s classroom at Malcolm X Shabazz High School. ( Credit: Derek John )
The blackboard in Lauretta Crawford’s classroom, where students study <em>The Autobiography of Malcolm X</em>.
The blackboard in Lauretta Crawford’s classroom, where students study The Autobiography of Malcolm X. ( Credit: Derek John )
Students at Malcom X Shabazz High School in Newark, New Jersey, where teacher Lauretta Crawford uses <em>The Autobiography of Malcolm X</em> to try to reach her class.
Students at Malcom X Shabazz High School in Newark, New Jersey, where teacher Lauretta Crawford uses The Autobiography of Malcolm X to try to reach her class. ( Credit: Derek John )
Shabazz High School student Lamar Clark says <em>The Autobiography of Malcolm X</em> has shown him “nothing is impossible.”
Shabazz High School student Lamar Clark says The Autobiography of Malcolm X has shown him “nothing is impossible.” ( Credit: Derek John )
Teacher Lauretta Crawford poses in front of a mural at Malcolm X Shabazz High School.
Teacher Lauretta Crawford poses in front of a mural at Malcolm X Shabazz High School. ( Credit: Derek John )
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