The Autobiography of Malcolm X

The Autobiography of Malcolm X Chapter 18 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Prince Faisal has declared Malcolm an official guest of the state and loans him a car and a chauffeur to take him around Mecca. Along with seeing the sites, he is able to participate in several special prayer rituals. While he is learning the Arabic prayers, his ankles still hurt from the difficult positions.
Malcolm has now been recognized by Saudi Arabia as a royal guest, which is an even higher honor than the hospitality shown to him thus far.
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Meanwhile, Malcolm has grown to be very comfortable with Arab culture, including eating and drinking from the same pots and glasses and washing from the same pitcher. While sleeping under the stars he observes that everyone snores in the same language.
Malcolm’s growing ease with the cultural norms around him shows that he is becoming less suspicious of all strangers and more mature in his education towards a more communal style of living.
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Never before has Malcolm felt as helpless as he did in the Middle East without any knowledge of Arabic. He wishes to have a basic understanding of the language by the next time he comes on the Hajj. Thankfully, he has had the support of many English-speaking people who have translated for him and guided him along. At the same time, he recognizes that Muslims do not speak the “American language” very well – that is, the language of modern advertising. With a more proactive effort, he thinks, they could have millions more converts to Islam.
As always, Malcolm sees himself as someone who accepts a given method and then devotes himself to and improves it. He has found fulfillment in traditional Sunni Islam, so now he sees it as his responsibility to use his skills to more effectively spread this system of belief throughout the United States.
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Wherever he goes, Malcolm is asked about the system of racial discrimination in America. For his part, he never wastes an opportunity to spread the news of the plight of African Americans. He has conversations with both regular pilgrims from all over the world and with learned religious leaders, such as the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. Often he gives public lectures within the lobby of the Jedda Palace Hotel, where he experiences solidarity with other people of color.
Many of Malcolm’s listeners in other countries are often shocked to learn about the racial oppression within the United States. Malcolm is therefore starting a dialogue, which will hopefully open other people to support his movement from around the world. It also gives him (and, ideally, his readers) an important new perspective that race relations don’t have to be the way they are in America.
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In order to be effective leaders in the United States, Malcolm believes black people should first travel extensively in non-white parts of the world to form bonds of solidarity and to learn new ways of looking at and overcoming oppression. These leaders would then have the ability to start thinking internationally, possibly even coordinating within the United Nations to demand equal rights for African Americans.
Malcolm’s thinking and influence has clearly expanded to focus on strategies that are no longer about simply passing out fliers on the street corner, but about making international alliances that can hold sway over America’s politicians.
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After praying that it would happen, Malcolm is invited to have an audience with Prince Faisal. The prince strikes Malcolm as a dignified yet humble man who is very warm with him. Faisal clearly condemns the Nation of Islam as having the wrong idea about Islam, to which Malcolm explains that he now wishes to discover “true Islam.” The Prince approves, saying there is “no excuse for ignorance.”
Malcolm’s humble tone and description of the Prince shows his admiration for him, and he chooses to take Faisal’s light reprimand in stride. In fact, Malcolm’s lifetime spent learning reflects his agreement with the Prince’s feelings.
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From Mecca, Malcolm flies to Beirut to address the faculty of the American University of Beirut. He receives an extremely supportive and emotional response from the African student body who clamor to hug him. Then, while walking the streets, he notes the more liberal dress of women in public, which he attributes to French influence. He wonders how material progress and morality can possibly be combined.
To a certain extent, Malcolm still views European society through the lens of the Nation of Islam. The closer a country is to Europe, the more likely it is to have been morally polluted by Europe’s more “liberal” societies.
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Arriving in Nigeria, Malcolm is invited to dinner by a professor whom he previously met in the United States. At the dinner, the other guests ask him if he knows anything about a recent murder in Harlem by a group called the Blood Brothers—which has been linked to Malcolm. While Malcolm knows nothing of the murder, he tells them that he is not surprised by the media using him as a scape-goat.
During his time away from the U.S., Malcolm is taking the time to learn and grow. However, the forces within the American media (and perhaps the Nation) use his absence and silence as an opportunity to slander him publicly, further corrupting his image back home.
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At Ibadan University, Malcolm speaks about the need for a Pan-African movement that would unite African Americans and Africans in the fight for civil rights and justice. He receives very sharp and intelligent questions from the students, and when one man stands up to denounce him, he is run off by the crowd. Afterwards, Malcolm is made an honorary member of the Nigerian Muslim’s Student Society and given the name “Omowale” – “the son who has come home.”
Malcolm’s interactions with Pan-African thought began when he was just a child, listening to his father lead meetings on Marcus Garvey’s philosophy. Now, he has come full circle and is himself advocating for a Pan-African movement.
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While in Nigeria, Malcolm speaks with Peace Corps members, makes radio and television appearances, and meets with local government officials. The latter describe how the US Embassy tries to give the impression that the “race issue” in the US will soon be solved, while the whole world knows otherwise.
The first step to creating solidarity has always been to first spread the news that there is a problem which needs fixing. In this case, Malcolm is confronting the United States government’s propaganda that there is no “race issue.”
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From Lagos, the journey continues on to Ghana, the birthplace of the Pan-African movement. Yet Ghana is also full of American businessmen, intent on extracting its resources. These men smile and pretend to not be racist, yet Malcolm sees them as just as bad as the violent bigots in America.
These colonialist businessmen plan to extract resources, enacting violence against the Earth and taking advantage of the local population by not properly sharing the profits, mirroring racist exploitation at home.
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Julian Mayfield leads a group of African-American ex-patriots living in Ghana, which includes figures such as Maya Angelou, who have been anxiously awaiting Malcolm’s arrival; they even created the “Malcolm X Committee” to organize his speaking schedule. At this dinner, where he is regarded as the symbol of a militant black struggle, he is heartened by their support for that very movement.
In Ghana, Malcolm is seen as a hero and a leader by these other well-known African-American figures. This solidarity helps to give him confidence, even while things are turbulent back home.
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The local press, meanwhile, sees Malcolm as a hero in the fight for racial justice and has also been anticipating his arrival as the beginning of an international struggle. At his first press conference, he is inevitably asked about his split with the Nation, which he attributes to political differences, while affirming Elijah’s very important message for African Americans. He is also firmly corrected from using the word “Negro” in favor of “Afro-American,” the preferred term in Ghana.
Despite the threats on his life and the negative press generated about him, Malcolm still refuses to talk poorly about Elijah. This restraint reflects how he still sees the Nation as generally a force for good, even if he cannot be a part of it any longer.
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The Malcolm X Committee keeps Malcolm extremely busy with press conferences, dinners, and visits to Embassies, including with the Algerian and Chinese Ambassadors, both of whom he finds to be perceptive men committed to a militant struggle against oppression.
Malcolm continues to interact with people who have participated in or supported militant insurrections, which shows the range of possibilities he is considering for the future of his own struggle.
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At the University of Ghana, Malcolm addresses a large crowd of both white and black people. He denounces the false manner in which whites treat Ghanaians nicely while only wanting to take their minerals. Meanwhile, they treat Afro-Americans terribly back home.
Malcolm connects global capitalist expansion with racial oppression back home—an insightful if controversial view, which the reader may agree with or see as an unfair indictment of these individual white business people.
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One night, Malcolm is invited to meet most of the top officials in Ghana’s government, where he is entertained with as much honor as when W.E.B. Du Bois came to Ghana. A few days later, he addresses the Ghanaian Parliament, calling for them to support Afro-Americans the way they support blacks in South Africa, a speech which receives a warm reception.
It is very interesting that Malcolm draws a parallel between the situations in America and South Africa, given that South Africa was internationally denounced throughout the years of apartheid, while the U.S. was not.
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Malcolm then meets with the president of Ghana, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, who had once studied in the United States and was therefore very aware of the African American struggle. They both agree that Pan-Africanism would be the most effective strategy going forward for all those of African heritage. Malcolm calls this meeting his highest honor while in Ghana.
Malcolm is decried as a “reverse racist” and fanatic in the U.S., but his warm receptions by world leaders abroad attest to the bias and one-sidedness of these charges.
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Malcolm addresses another group of students committed to continuing “Ghana’s intellectual revolution,” when an African American man stands up, offering a defense of white America. He is quickly booed into silence and regarded as an agent of the CIA, while others call for him to join them and learn something.
In the United States, it was common for African Americans to disagree with Malcolm’s harsh statements and defend white Americans, but that kind of talk here is regarded with suspicion, as this audience hasn’t been as indoctrinated into the racist hierarchy of American society as all Americans—even black Americans—have been.
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The Chinese Ambassador holds a dinner in Malcolm’s honor, followed by a film screening. From there, he is taken to a lively party at the Press Club where he calls on everyone to enjoy themselves, but to not forget all those still struggling for freedom, like Nelson Mandela (who was recently arrested for blowing up a power station).
Nowadays Mandela is generally seen as a symbolic, heroic, and relatively uncontroversial figure, but it is important to remember that Mandela was widely considered a terrorist in his time, making Malcolm’s comment of support for him far more radical.
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Malcolm attends a luncheon hosted by the Nigerian High Commissioner the next day, who speaks to his own experiences of racism in America. Then, while holding up a photo of Malcolm and an illustration of a royal Nigerian Muslim from four hundred years ago, he declares them to be brothers. As a symbol of their brotherhood, he gifts Malcolm a beautiful robe and turban like the one worn in the picture.
An important component of his travels throughout Africa has been the opportunity for Malcolm to create a personal and cultural connection to Africa. This gift symbolizes that Malcolm is part of a lineage that makes him a “brother” in both race and religion.
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Afterwards, Malcolm is taken by Shirley Graham Du Bois to see the home of her late husband, the great writer W. E. B. Du Bois. She tells him about how he had a very close personal relationship with President Nkrumah.
This visit is something like a miniature pilgrimage, but this time it’s to go see the home of an “American saint,” a man who fought for racial equality on Malcolm’s home turf.
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As Malcolm prepares to leave Ghana, he runs into Cassius Clay, who has been in the country for a few days. As Cassius is still aligned with Elijah and the Nation, they barely speak, but Malcolm does sincerely wish him well.
This broken relationship weighs heavy on Malcolm’s heart, as he and Cassius had been as close as family, a situation which recalls Malcolm’s rejection of his brother, Reginald. (And in a tragic echo of Malcolm’s sentiments regarding Reginald, Muhammad Ali would later say that turning his back on Malcolm was one of the things he most regretted in life.)
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The entire Malcolm X Committee meets Malcolm in the lobby and accompanies him to the airport. As they say their goodbyes, five Ambassadors arrive to personally wish him well – an honor leaving him speechless.
This gesture is a final acknowledgement of Malcolm’s international standing, despite his controversial reputation in America.
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Malcolm then travels quickly through Liberia, Dakar, Morocco, and finally to Algiers, Algeria. There, he talks with ordinary people who hate America for having supported the French colonizers, and he admires these revolutionaries’ courage.
To Malcolm, the Algerian citizens who have overthrown colonialism are a view of what African Americans could be like if racial oppression in America ever ended.
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When Malcolm’s plane touches down at JFK Airport on May 21, 1964, he is met by the largest press contingent he’s ever seen. While he’s been gone, lots of violence and the formation of African American Rifle Clubs has been blamed on him, and they now want to hear his comments. Instead, he tries to argue why African Americans could make a case against the US government for a “denial of human rights.”
When Malcolm arrives back in the United States, it is as if he and the press no longer speak the same language. The press is caught up with the current local rumors, while Malcolm is swept up in his new religious feelings and theorizing about possibilities of international action and solidarity.
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The reporters then shift to asking Malcolm about his “Letter from Mecca.” He elaborates on how his thinking has been broadened to see the possibility of brotherhood between whites and blacks, and he no longer believes all whites to be evil. And yet, he says, the reality is that America is still governed largely by racism, which means that brotherhood is not yet possible on a massive scale. Furthermore, that same racism has been directed at many different people of color, leading to an international movement among oppressed people against white colonizers, like the Vietnamese struggle against the French and Americans.
The press’s unease with Malcolm’s new ideas may reflect an innate awareness that a real Pan-African movement could cause great social upheaval within the U.S., and so they try to control the narrative and direct Malcolm to focus on the newfound ideas of tolerance he talked about in his letter.
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