The 1992 Malcolm X film directed by Spike Lee is a drama of an African-American activist Malcom X. The film is adopted from Malcom X’s autobiography in order to show some of the memorable events in his personal and national life. X remains one of the most controversial African-American activists who ever lived during the struggle for equality between the Black and White races.
The film starts by showing a troubled childhood years in Malcom X’s life. His father is an African-American preacher who ascribes to Marcus Garvey. Garvey preaches that the Whites would never accept to integrate with the Black people and the only hope is for all the black Americans to return to Africa. Malcom X’s father is assassinated, leading to the suffering of the family because the mother is unable to provide for the family. The condition forces him to live with foster family in order to keep hope alive. In Harlem, he later joins a gangster called West Indian Archie. He later flees to Boston after falling away with the Harlem gangster. At Boston, he joins others to become a burglar before his arrest and a ten-year imprisonment.
His life takes a different turn in imprison when Baines, an inmate, introduces him to Nation of Islam teachings. Malcom X undergoes a radical conversion lessons that make him the spokesperson for the movement. This is the period he changes his name to adopt ‘Malcom X’ and marries Betty Shabazz. He gains prominence by his radical doctrine that advocates for the complete separation from the white society. Later, his doctrinal stand changes after a pilgrimage to Mecca where Muslims of all races accept him. He struggles to break away from the teachings of Nation of Islam that totally rejected all whites. Malcom X is tragically assassinated on February 21, 1965, in New York City for trying to include whites in the Islamic teachings. The film ends with the present day children quoting Malcom X’s teachings.
Malcolm X by Spike Lee shows a number of issues related to the textbook material. The major issues that present themselves are racial discrimination, equal protection by law and emergence of the civil rights movements.
On emergence of the civil rights movements, the film begins by showing the activities of Malcom X’s father, who joins a group that advocates for the return of the African-Americans back to Africa. Unfortunately, this group have no belief that the whites would one day accept the blacks to be part of their society. On the same note, Malcom X joins the Nation of Islam religious sect that recruit him to be the representative in public forums. It is obvious that all the civil rights movements had issues they wanted addressed.
The law at that time did not guarantee equal protection of all citizens, especially for the blacks. Certain places, schools and transport systems were exclusively the preserve of the whites and blacks were punished for attempting to break such laws. The law in place propagated racial discrimination towards the blacks. For instance, the young Malcom X was the brightest student in his class; however, the white teachers tell him to look for manual jobs with instead of pursuing his career dreams. It seems that the racial discrimination could not allow him pursue academic success towards a professional career.
The interaction between the civil rights movements also comes into focus, especially after Malcom X visits Mecca. His change of tough messages that attacked the whites terming them as devils infuriated the Nation of Islam. He is assassinated for changing his tone by saying that all Muslims, whether white or blacks are peaceful people. Breaking away from the movement leads to a tragedy. Malcolm X by Spike Lee is a book that shows the correct analysis of the situation during the struggle for equality under the law at the tie of racial discrimination. As much as it shows the struggle for freedom, it also exposes the enmity between civil rights movements. I recommend it.