In 1992, the biographical feature film Malcolm X by directior Spike Lee turned the legendary figure into an American popular icon; his face and name appeared on T-shirts, bookcovers, jackets, and caps in a commercial rebirth of his legacy.
Although the omnipresent image of Malcolm X in the early 1990s was merely a trendy fashion for mainstream America, the black community accorded Malcolm X an honor and acclaim that had been intensifying over the decades since his death.
In Lansing, a white supremacist group burned down his family's house and was later suspected of killing Malcolm's father, and outspoken minister who supported the separatist ideas of Marcus Garvey.
Malcolm's mother could not support her family due to her psychological instability after her husband's death. When she was placed in the psychiatric institution, Malcolm and his siblings were separated into various detention homes. Malcolm remained in the custody of the state until he completed the eighth grade. He then moved to the Roxbury section of Boston to live with his half-sister. In this urban environment, the young Malcolm turn to criminal activities, and from 1946 to 1952, he served time for burglary in Charlestown State Prison.
Encouraged by his sister, Ella, to become a Muslim, he left prison in 1952 to work with Elijah Muhammed, leader of the Nation of Islam. With his charismatic leadership skills and feverent, insistent voice, Malcolm went to Detroit and New York to convey to the Muslims' message of black separation and black chauvinism to the urban masses. He subsequently changed his name to Malcolm X in repudiation of his family name, Little, which is considered a slave name.
In chapter 2, which covers 1937 to 1940, Malcolm tells about his experiences in a Lansing detention home, including his discovery that racism could be fostered even in well-intention white Americans. Malcolm's letter from chapter 17 details the changes in his attitude toward race brought about by his visit to Mecca. Finally, chapter 19 clarifies Malcolm's position in 1965 on such issues as the use of violence, interracial cooperation, and the future of racial politics in America. The chapter ends prophetically with Malcolm's expectation of assassination.