Introduction to The Autobiography of Malcolm X MSE

Welcome to the Multimedia Study Environment (MSE) of The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which was produced by the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CCNMTL) in collaboration with Columbia University's Center for Contemporary Black History (CCBH).

As the most popular and accessible primary text on Malcolm X, The Autobiography has been both an aid and an impediment to would-be biographers. On the one hand, Malcolm X’s autobiography represents his own personal account of his life story as told to Alex Haley. On the other hand, it contains notable silences on the part of both Malcolm X and Haley that fail to reconcile the inconsistencies, errors of fact, and other problems that are inevitably part of any autobiography. Thus, in order to provide an exhaustive biographical study of Malcolm X, the MSE allows users to reexamine and reconstruct Malcolm X’s Autobiography by connecting his narrative to critical annotations and a digital archive of multimedia primary source materials.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X MSE is based on a template, developed by CCNMTL, which presents a primary text online with hyperlinks to critical annotations, audio, video, text, and images. As an innovation to this interface, we have introduced the concept of multiple “lenses,” or perspectives, through which to view the text.

Traditionally, scholars have examined and discussed Malcolm X as a political figure, and as a result, much of the existing scholarship has focused almost exclusively on the political aspect of his life and legacy. What has emerged from this single focus is a convincing portrait of the man as a black nationalist. While we accept that black nationalism was an important part of Malcolm X’s life, we believe that the complexity of his life and ideas cannot be fully appreciated by viewing him from simply this perspective. A more complex study of his entire life reveals him to be not only a political figure in this tradition, but also a cultural hero, a global citizen, and a man of deep faith.

In order for MSE users to appreciate these “four Malcolms,” they have been provided with four lenses through which to examine and reflect on The Autobiography of Malcolm X. They are Politics (Black Nationalism); Culture (African American Culture and Youth Subcultures); Globalism (Third World, Socialism, and Pan-Africanism); and Faith (Black Religion, Christianity, and Islam). Within these areas users will discover reflections by those who knew Malcolm X, observations by Malcolm X scholars, and a range of annotations providing historical context. In addition, there are a number of primary source materials from Malcolm X’s life including archival film, speeches, photos, press clipping, FBI documents and a case file on the assassination. Finally, users will find four video lectures by Dr. Marable on topics that include the Malcolm/Haley collaboration, the assassination, Malcolm and politics, and Malcolm and gender.

To begin your exploration, please click on the “enter site” tab in the upper right hand corner of this window.