Cultural Institution Blesok • Established 1998
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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 21 | volume IV | June-July, 2001



                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 21June-July, 2001

Coming to an Awareness of Language

p. 1
Malcom X

On February 21, 1965, Malcolm X, the Black Muslim leader, was shot to death as he addressed an afternoon rally in Harlem. He was thirty-nine years old. In the course of his brief life he had risen from the world of thieving, pimping, and drug pushing to become one of the most articulate and powerful blacks in America during the early 1960s.
    With the assistance of Alex Haley, later the author of Roots, Malcolm X told his story in The Autobiography of Malcolm X, a moving account of his search for fulfillment. In the following selection taken from the Autobiography, Malcolm X narrates his discovery while in prison of the power of language.

Malcom X

    I've never been one for inaction. Everything I've ever felt strongly about, I've done something about. I guess that's why, unable to do anything else, I soon began writing to people I had known in the hustling world, such as Sammy the Pimp, John Hughes, the gambling house owner, the thief Jumpsteady, and several dope peddlers. I wrote them all about Allah and Islam and Mr. Elijah Muhammad. I had no idea where most of them lived. I addressed their letters in care of the Harlem or Roxbury bars and clubs where I'd known them.
    I never got a single reply. The average hustler and criminal was too uneducated to write a letter. I have known many slick, sharp-looking hustlers, who would have you think they had an interest in Wall Street; privately, they would get someone else to read a letter if they received one. Besides, neither would I have replied to anyone writing me something as wild as “the white man is the devil.”
    What certainly went on the Harlem and Roxbury wires was that Detroit Red was going crazy in stir, or else he was trying some hype to shake up the warden's office.
    During the years that I stayed in the Norfolk Prison Colony, never did any official directly say anything to me about those letters, although, of course, they all passed through the prison censorship. I'm sure, however, they monitored what I wrote to add to the files which every state and federal prison keeps on the conversion of Negro inmates by the teachings of Mr. Elijah Muhammad.
    But at that time, I felt that the real reason was that the white man knew that he was the devil.
    Later on, I even wrote to the Mayor of Boston,

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