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Free Study Guide-The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X-Free Notes
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Chapter 1

Nightmare

Summary (continued)

Another thing that made Malcolm believe that his father favored him more than his other siblings, was the fact that he was the only one, who was taken to the meetings organized by his father to spread the teachings of Marcus Garvey. Although his father often took him and his brothers for his sermons, Malcolm never developed any interest in Christianity. He recalls that his father's favorite sermon was 'That Little Black Train is Comin'… an' you better get all your business right!' Malcolm feels that it fit well with his father's involvement in the back to Africa movement where Garvey spoke about the black train homewards.

He also remembered seeing the big photographs of Marcus Garvey, which his father showed the others at the meetings, held usually at night.

Malcolm also recalls that there was constant friction between his parents. This is chiefly due to the fact that his mother was extremely intelligent, which her father could not accept. Another reason for the friction was food. His mother hated having or cooking rabbit meat, while his father enjoyed it. One day his father got a rabbit to be cooked for lunch. His mother refused. There was a heated argument after which, his father went out of the house in a huff.

Malcolm believed that his mother has strong instincts and could anticipate events even before they occurred. That day too, she instinctively felt that some harm would come upon her husband. So she rushed out to call him back. However, he had already gone by then. Malcolm's mother went back and waited anxiously for her husband. In the evening, she and her family got the news that her husband had met with an accident while crossing the railway track and died instantly.

Although this was the official version of the case, the entire town of Lansing knew that Earl Little was killed by the Black Legions and his body was placed on the railway tracks to make it seem like an accident. Rev. Earl Little had been killed in broad daylight by the white racist group.


After her husband's death, Malcolm's mother tried to keep her family together. She worked all kinds of jobs at people's houses, only to be fired, when they learn that she is a black woman (she had a light complexion) and the wife of Late Rev. Little who used to instigate the "good Negroes" of Lansing.

Malcolm's mother's attempt to remarry is thwarted, when her fiancé ditches her as soon as he realizes that he will have to take on the responsibility of a huge family after marriage. This hurts Louise tremendously. But what hurt her most was the constant interference from the Welfare Department. During the difficult Depression years, Louise could not feed her family properly. Later there were constant complaints from the school about Malcolm's conduct. Having been spoiled by his father, he was always up to some prank in school.

So the Welfare Department came in to 'advise' Louise. They tried to break up the family and send the children to foster homes. Louise fiercely resisted their attempts. She was already quite hurt about the fact that she had to accept charity (in the form of food and clothes) from the department.

After a while, she broke down due to the persistent pressure of the department. The pressures affected her emotionally too. She had become rather quiet and would go off for long walks talking to herself. The Welfare Department began telling her children that their mother had become mad and that she cannot look after them anymore. It was decided that while the eldest two-Philbert and Hilda (who had taken on the responsibility of the family) will stay in their home, the others will be sent to foster homes. Their mother was sent to a sanatorium in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

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