Vote to pick which books we cover next.
If your book wins, we'll make a LitChart for it in one month—guaranteed!
Malcolm goes through multiple transformations in his life, which are reflected in his various names. There is Malcolm Little, the small-town boy from Lansing, Michigan; “Detroit Red”, the Roxbury and Harlem hustler; Malcolm X, the… (read full character analysis)
Malcom X’s collaborator in writing his Autobiography, Alex Haley does not show up as a character until the Epilogue. There, he informs the reader of his two years spent talking with Malcolm late… (read full character analysis)
A slight, soft spoken man, Elijah Muhammad founded and led the Nation of Islam from 1934 until 1975. After Malcolm converts, he becomes his spiritual director and assumes a father-figure role in his life. Muhammad’s… (read full character analysis)
Malcolm X’s mother, Louise Little was born in Granada to a black woman who had been raped by a white man. This traumatic past instills her with a disgust for her own lighter skin… (read full character analysis)
Reginald is Malcolm’s younger brother who comes to live with him in Harlem. While he admires Malcolm, he also is unafraid to live his life in ways that diverge from Malcolm. Reginald leads Malcolm… (read full character analysis)
A devoted member of the Nation of Islam and trained nurse, Sister Betty X attracts Malcolm’s attention through her committed service. One day, with practically no pretext, he calls her and asks her to… (read full character analysis)
Laura is a bright high school student with a promising future ahead of her – before she meets Malcolm. As a young man, he introduces her to the nightlife in Roxbury, which he believes… (read full character analysis)
Later known as Muhammad Ali, Cassius is a heavyweight boxer. A charismatic, good-looking, and sharp young man, he becomes a good friend of Malcolm’s, and he takes him in during his suspension from the… (read full character analysis)
Reverend Earl Little (Malcolm’s Father)
Reverend Earl Little, Malcolm’s father, is a powerful traveling preacher from Georgia and a member of the Black Nationalism movement. His outspoken views and support of Marcus Garvey attract negative attention to Malcolm’s family, eventually leading to Earl’s suspicious death.
One of Malcolm’s older siblings, and a rather serious character, Hilda is influential in bringing Malcolm to the Nation of Islam. When visiting him in prison, she teaches him about the Nation’s alternative historical narrative.
Malcolm’s closest brother in age, with whom he would frequently fight in childhood. He is one of the first Little siblings to join the Nation of Islam.
Malcolm’s eldest sibling, Wilfred takes Malcolm in after he leaves prison and teaches him more about the Nation of Islam.
Malcolm’s half-sister through his father’s first marriage, she has a close relationship with Reginald.
Malcolm’s half-brother through his father’s first marriage, Earl lives in Boston.
Shorty is a hustler and aspiring musician with a particular obsession with white women, who helps Malcolm to enter the Roxbury ghetto life. They go on to become good friends and partners in crime. However, once Malcolm becomes a Muslim, their separate lifestyles drive them in different directions.
“Sammy the Pimp”
A young, suave hustler, Sammy the Pimp becomes one of Malcolm’s close associates and friends in Harlem. While he often supports Malcolm in times of need, Sammy also nearly kills him for disrespecting his girlfriend, permanently damaging their relationship.
A beautiful white woman, Sophia has an ongoing relationship with Malcolm throughout his years in Boston and New York. Their relationship is one of mutual disrespect and racial stereotyping; while she brings him “status” within the black community, she only sees Malcolm as her plaything.
“West Indian Archie”
A “strongarmer,” West Indian Archie works for a gambling ring in Harlem. He one day accuses Malcolm of lying, nearly leading to a shootout.
A tall and dignified yet humble man, he is the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. Upon meeting with Malcolm, he urges him to learn about and adopt a more orthodox form of Islam.
Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah
The president of Ghana, Malcolm regarded their meeting as the highest honor of his trip to Africa.
Dr. Omar Azzam
An engineer and the son of Abd-Al-Rahman Azzam. He shows Malcolm great hospitality while he is in Saudi Arabia.
A Jewish restaurant investor, Hymie also employs Malcolm to bootleg liquor. While they have a good relationship, Malcolm will reflect in prison that Hymie, like all white men, was always using him in some capacity.
Rudy, a good-looking light-skinned black man from Harlem, is one of the members of Malcolm’s burglary circle in Boston. He leaves town before the police can arrest him, and is the only crew member able to escape.
A large, jovial woman, Mrs. Swerlin treats Malcolm very kindly while he stays at her detention home for juvenile delinquents, and even goes out of her way to let him stay longer, rather than sending him on to a reform school.
Mr. Swerlin runs a youth detention home with his wife, Mrs. Swerlin. While Malcolm is there, he always treats him politely, despite holding some racist views.
Malcolm’s teacher who kills his dream of becoming a lawyer.
A shoe shiner in Roxbury who teaches Malcolm his trade, which will become his first “hustle.”
An old convict at Charlestown State Prison, Bimbi first pushes Malcolm to take up his studies again.
Mother Marie is the mother of Elijah Muhammad, and she talks to Malcolm when he comes to visit in Chicago.
The “dark man from Lansing”
Louise begins seeing a tall, dark man resembling Malcolm’s father, hoping he will marry her—but he eventually walks away from the impending responsibility.
Part of Malcolm’s burglary circle in Boston and Shorty’s girlfriend.
A skillful gambler and the owner of a gambling house Malcolm frequents in Boston.
Mr. Maynard Allen
A Welfare agency worker, he takes Malcolm to Mr. and Mrs. Swerlin’s detention home.
He takes in Malcolm after Louise’s breakdown, and he sometimes takes Malcolm hunting.
Along with Mr. Gohannas, she takes in Malcolm after Louise’s breakdown.
Mr. Gohannas and Mrs. Gohannas’ son.
A religious woman, she disapproves of Laura’s relationship with Malcolm.
The co-owner of Small’s Palace.
The co-owner of Small’s Palace.
The owner of a brothel in Harlem and Malcolm’s friend.
Mr. and Mrs. Lyon
A black couple from Mason, they take in Malcolm after he leaves the Swerlin home and treat him as one of their own.
An old pickpocket who hangs around Small’s, telling stories.
A black detective in Roxbury who detests Malcolm.
Malcolm’s only ever boxing opponent, who beats him badly.
Master W. D. Fard
The mythical founder of the Nation of Islam.
One of Elijah Muhammad’s sons.
Dr. Mahmoud Youssef Shawarbi
A Muslim scholar and professor from Egypt.
One of the men accused of the assassination of Malcolm X—he was arrested on the day of Malcolm’s murder and later convicted.
Norman 3X Butler
One of the accused assassins of Malcolm X.
Thomas 15X Johnson
One of the accused assassins of Malcolm X.
A political leader, Marcus Garvey (1887-1940) was a key voice in the Pan-Africanism movement—a philosophy which called for people of African descent around the world to return to their ancestral homes, and for white colonizers to leave Africa.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
A famous Civil Rights leader and contemporary of Malcolm X. King advocated a non-violent approach to protesting, and though he and Malcolm often disagreed on tactics, they generally supported and respected each other. King was assassinated in 1968, three years after Malcolm.