American Icons: "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" | WBEZ
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Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen

American Icons: "The Autobiography of Malcolm X"

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
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)


Martin Luther King and Malcolm X waiting for press conference
Martin Luther King and Malcolm X waiting for a press conference. (Marion S. Trikosko, Courtesy of The Library of Congress)


'The Autobiography of Malcolm X'
From R to L: The first edition cover of "The Autobiography of Malcolm X," followed by two later covers (Melvin Reeves, Permission courtesy of Barney Rosset/Kyle Pellett, Permission courtesy of Barney Rosset/Courtesy of Ballantine Books)


Alex Haley's Hamilton College ID
Alex Haley’s Hamilton College ID card where he was a writer-in-residence (Courtesy of Bill Haley)  

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