The Autobiography of Malcolm X traces the life of one of the most influential, controversial, and thoughtful people of the 20th century.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
9th Grade Informational Text 1130L
America's Most Infamous Hate Group: The KKK
Passage Summary: In the informational text “America’s Most Infamous Hate Group: The KKK,” Jessica McBirney discusses the KKK’s various waves of activity and popularity in America.
When and How to Pair: Introduce this text before students begin reading the book, in order to provide background knowledge on the history of the Ku Klux Klan. Ask students to consider the impact that white supremacist organizations, like the Ku Klux Klan and the Black Legions, had on Malcolm's family and the lives of African Americans.
8th Grade Poem 970L
We Wear the Mask
Passage Summary: Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) was an influential African-American poet during the early twentieth century. He was the son of freed slaves and was a friend of Frederick Douglass. In “We Wear the Mask” (1896), Dunbar introduces the idea of hiding behind a metaphorical mask.
When and How to Pair: Introduce this poem after students complete Chapter Two: "Mascot," to help compare and contrast the speaker’s perspective in Dunbar’s poem to Malcolm’s perspective as a young man growing up in Michigan.
7th Grade Psychology 1310L
Passage Summary: “Herd Behavior” describes how individuals change when they are part of a crowd.
When and How to Pair: Teachers may choose to introduce this text after students read Chapter Three: ""Homeboy,"" in order to help students better analyze the choices that Malcolm makes once he arrives in Boston.
9th Grade Non-Fiction 1090L
A Defiant Muhammad Ali Was Cherished By Black Men
Passage Summary: Muhammad Ali’s legacy as a symbol of courage and a challenge to the status quo is remembered in light of his passing.
When and How to Pair: Introduce this text after students finish reading Chapter Six: "Detroit Red." Then, have students compare the actions and motivations of Malcolm during World War II to the views of Muhammad Ali during the Vietnam War.
10th Grade Psychology 1490L
Is There a Cheater's High?
Passage Summary: In this article, Romeo Vitelli, Ph.D., examines people like Frank Abagnale, the con artist, to determine whether or not the act of cheating—and getting away with it—can be a positive motivator.
When and How to Pair: As Chapter 7: "Hustler" progresses, teachers may choose to introduce this text and allow students to evaluate whether a “cheater’s high” led Malcolm to continue to take greater risks as a criminal.
8th Grade Informational Text 1130L
Passage Summary: Stanley Tookie Williams III (1953-2005) was a leader of the Crips, an infamous gang that began in Los Angeles in 1969. He spent much of his life in prison. Today, he is well known for the writing that he did while in jail, which included anti-gang activist literature and children’s books. When he was executed in 2005, his death sparked controversy surrounding the death penalty.
When and How to Pair: Introduce this text to students after they have read Chapter 10: "Satan," and ask them to compare the experiences of Stanley Williams to those of Malcolm. How did prison impact these two men differently?
11th Grade Interview 1190L
Teaching Shakespeare in a Maximum Security Prison
Passage Summary: In this National Public Radio interview, Professor Laura Bates discusses her decision to teach Shakespeare in a maximum security prison as a way of educating inmates—and discovering new insights into the Bard’s drama.
When and How to Pair: Teachers may choose to introduce this text after students have read Chapter 11: "Saved" and ask them to compare the experiences that Malcolm had to those of Laura Bates and her students.
11th Grade Myth 1190L
The Myth of Daedalus and Icarus
Passage Summary: Ovid (43 BCE – 17/18 CE), or Publius Ovidius Naso, was a Roman poet best known for the Metamorphoses, which now remains an important source of classical mythology. In this classic myth, Daedalus attempts to escape imprisonment on the island of Crete by crafting a pair of wax wings for himself and his son, Icarus.
When and How to Pair: Introduce this text after students have read Chapter 15: "Icarus," and then ask students to evaluate whether or not Malcolm X was deserving of the title, “Icarus.”
8th Grade Psychology 1100L
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Passage Summary: Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) was an American psychologist who wrote extensively about human behavior, motivations, and needs. This passage explores his best known work: the hierarchy of needs.
When and How to Pair: Introduce this text after students complete Chapter 17: "Mecca." Then, have students determine where Malcolm X sat on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. How has Malcolm’s relation to Maslow’s pyramid evolved throughout his life?
8th Grade Poem
If We Must Die
Passage Summary: Claude McKay (1889-1948) was a Jamaican-American writer and poet who was a seminal figure during the Harlem Renaissance. In this poem, McKay discusses facing death and other obstacles with courage and dignity, and reflects upon his perspective on the black experience during early 20th century America.
When and How to Pair: Have students read this poem after completing Chapter 19: "1965." Then, have students compare how Malcolm faced death to the way that the speaker in McKay’s poem faces death.