Malcolm X:Plot summary

The film breaks the life and times of the famous African-American activist Malcolm X into three sections. The first section deals with the troubled childhood of Malcolm Little, whose father (a preacher) was murdered by the Black Legion and whose mother was institutionalized for insanity. Malcolm grows up and gets a job as a Pullman porter, calling himself Detroit Red. Getting involved with a Harlem gangster named West Indian Archie with whom he has a falling out, Malcolm flees back to Boston and decides to become a common thief. He and his best friend, Shorty (played by Spike Lee) are arrested by the police and Malcolm is sentenced to a 10 year prison term. The second section follows his life in prison, where a fellow inmate, Baines, introduces him to the teachings of the Nation of Islam.

The third section follows Malcolm's religious conversion as a messianic disciple of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. During this fervent immersion into the Nation of Islam, he becomes an incendiary speaker for the movement and marries Betty Shabazz. Malcolm X preaches a doctrine of separation from white society, however, a pilgrimage to Mecca softens his beliefs, teaches him that Muslims come from all races, even Caucasians, and he endeavors to break free of the strict dogma of the Nation of Islam, with tragic results. He was later assassinated and dies a Muslim martyr on February 21, 1965 in Harlem, New York City.


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