American Icons: "The Autobiography of Malcolm X"

Studio 360

This is an American revolution set down on the page.    

When Malcolm X was assassinated at 39, his life story 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 political right; Public Enemy’s Chuck D tells us, “This book is like food. It ain’t McDonald's — it’s sit down at the table and say grace.” 

(Originally aired September 24, 2010)

Passages from "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" were read by Dion Graham.

'The Autobiography of Malcolm X,' Ballantine Books paperback

Bonus Track: Painting an Icon 
Artist Charles Lilly's painting of Malcolm X adorns the cover of the Ballantine Books edition of “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.” 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: A tour of Alex Haley's studio

Alex Haley at typewriter
Martin Luther King and Malcolm X waiting for press conference
'The Autobiography of Malcolm X'
Alex Haley's Hamilton College ID