Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Marked Man: The Assassination of Malcolm X

A Marked Man: The Assassination of Malcolm X, by Matt Doeden, is a well-written, engaging biography of a man of whom there are mysteries that will probably never be solved. The question of who exactly murdered him, isn't resolved.

I would be hard pressed to find man, dead or alive, with a life as full of fascinating conflict as that of Malcolm Little, later known as Malcolm X.
Born in Nebraska in 1925, the son of a minister, he experienced first hand the injustice of Jim Crow America, including violence at the hands of the KKK, extreme poverty, the early death of his father who fell suspiciously into the path of a streetcar and much more. He came to believe that violence was the only way to deal with the "white devils." All whites were evil in his eyes. The early pages of the book deals with how he came to believe what he did, which I found valuable.

There is no question in my opinion, that a book about something as dark as his assassination is appropriate for fifth graders and above. At that age, one of my favorite books was strangely, The Day Lincoln was Shot by author Jim Bishop. The details of the crime fascinated me then; encouraged me to think deeply about such acts. Kids today will do the same while reading Doeden's book.

The events of Malcolm X's life, from his tragic childhood, to crime and prison, to his identity as a Black Muslim, and eventually his transforming journey to Mecca, was a testament to his intelligence, and importantly, how he questioned and changed his perspective through experience. He was constantly questioning what was right and wrong, coming up with different conclusions as he aged, rethinking previous ideas.

At the time of his assassination in 1965, at a age thirty-nine, his thoughts about violence as the only way to freedom for Black American had mellowed. He had grown away from the Black Muslim leadership headed by the powerful Elijah Muhammad and challenged its authority. Because of this, he was in the organization's gun site.

As Malcolm X said, "You'll find that very few people who think like I think live long enough to get old."

1 comment:

  1. I am continually struck by the numbers of children with little awareness of who Malcolm X is. They know Martin Luther King, Jr., but not Malcolm X.