By: Matt Doeden
Publisher: Twenty-First Century Books
Publication Date: January 2013
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: April 2013
Reverend Earl Little was a marked man when he began to speak out for “the rights of black Americans.” He was a member of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), a group the Ku Klux Klan frowned upon. It was cause for lynching, but when they went to his home Earl wasn’t home. Instead of leaving a body behind, they left a warning: “If the Littles valued their lives, they would leave.” Malcolm had yet to be born, but the family did just that and ended up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and later Lansing where the family touched hands with violence once more when their house was torched. When Malcolm was six years old, tragedy struck when his father met with an “accident.” Louise Little was left alone to raise seven children.
Things didn’t bode well for the remaining Little family when Louise “suffered a mental breakdown and was officially declared insane.” As a young teen Malcolm was unable to cope with yet another loss and began to act out. As a result he ended up in a detention home, one in which he learned that “racism wasn’t always paired with hatred and violence,” but could come in the “form of kindness and ignorance.” When his half sister arrived for a visit, he learned about pride. He later moved to Boston and an unfortunate set of circumstances found him behind bars where he had years to rehash his life’s circumstances.
It was there he learned about the Nation of Islam (NOI) and Elijah Muhammad, their leader. Malcolm wanted in and it was then and there that he “felt he had a place in the world.” Once prison was behind him, Malcolm X, as he was then known, began to climb the ladder in the organization. Malcolm began speaking to the masses and “poor young blacks responded to his message.” He was a Black Muslim and felt violence was the way to effect change, not civil disobedience. In this book you’ll read about Malcolm X’s family, his role in the civil rights movement, his rift with the NOI, the history of slavery, the black struggle for civil rights, his split with the Nation of Islam, his assassination, and you’ll learn many other fascinating things about this “controversial civil rights leader.”
This is a fascinating glimpse into the life and times of Malcolm X. Many young people are more familiar with civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., but in order to receive a good overview of the struggles occurring during the civil rights era, they need to know about other leaders as well. This book definitely captures another point of view during the era, one that was not necessarily a popular one at the time. The brief look at the history of black America gives the reader a good idea of what leadership during this time had to face. The book is liberally illustrated with black and white photographs and is interspersed with numerous informative sidebars. In the back of the book is an index, a glossary, a timeline (1925 to 2012), some brief biographical portraits, source notes, a selected bibliography, and numerous book and website resources to explore.
Quill says: This book is an excellent biography of Malcolm X that would be an outstanding addition to homeschool and classroom shelves.