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Free Study Guide-The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X-Free Notes
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Chapter 2

Mascot

Summary (continued)

At the Swerlin's house, he often felt rather strange at the use of the word 'nigger'. It was used by the couple so often. Also the Swerlins used to always talk about him or refer to another 'nigger' in his presence, as though he didn't exist. In this context, Malcolm recalls an incident, where Mr. Swerlin comes in and tells his wife that he could not understand how 'niggers' could be so happy although they were so poor. To this Mrs. Swerlin replies: 'Niggers are just that way…'

All this goes on in Malcolm's presence as though he didn't exist.

Yet, the Swerlins were extremely fond of Malcolm. It was their affection towards the young boy that made them defer his court hearing date. In other words, while the rest of the boys and girls left the detention home after their cases (delinquency) came up for hearing in the court, Malcolm's case never came up for hearing at all. After a while, he joined the Mason Junior High School, where he entered the 7th grade. In school his favorite subjects had always been English and History.

Malcolm recalls how Mr. Williams taught history. The history of negroes was just a small paragraph in the text. However, what irritated Malcolm was the way the topic was taught. Mr. Williams (a white man) found the topic extremely amusing, as he read it out to the class. Then he said a joke where a black man, while walking, left footprints of an animal. From that moment, young Malcolm hated attending Mr. Williams's class.

In school, Malcolm's grades were good. He was also rather popular. In the second semester (7th grade), he was elected class president. This made the Swerlins very happy and proud of their ward. Due to his good grades, Malcolm easily entered the 8th grade. Here he remembers that, Mr. Ostrowski, was the most popular teacher among the students, for he took interest in them. Sometimes he would discuss their future plans, and advise and encourage them.


Once, when Mr. Ostrowski asked Malcolm, what he would like to become, he replied that he wanted to become a lawyer. At this Mr. Ostrowski advised him to be practical. He suggested that he should take up carpentry, which would be most suited for him. This hurt Malcolm more because Mr. Ostrowski had always encouraged the other boys and girls in whatever they wished to do in the future. Since that incident, Malcolm lost all his interest in his studies, school and withdrew from everybody including the Swerlins. The Swerlins soon noticed his behavior. However, when Mrs. Swerlin asked him if he felt unhappy staying there, he remained silent. At school, his grades began to fall. Also whenever the word 'nigger' was mentioned by anyone Malcolm would no longer ignored it. He would stop and turn to look. He did this even at home.

Finally it was decided that Malcolm should not stay with the Swerlins. Arrangements were made for him to stay with the Lyons family. Even while bidding farewell to Mrs. Swerlin, he was asked if anything was wrong. But Malcolm just shook his head and said that nothing was wrong.

Malcolm stayed with the Lyons for two months. He remained quiet and aloof from the others. During his stay with the Lyons, he frequently met his brothers and sisters and wrote regularly to Ella, in Boston. In one of his letters to her, he mentioned his wish to come and stay with her in Boston. He did not tell her the reason, though.

Ella immediately made the necessary arrangements. It was agreed that the day Malcolm finished 8th grade, he would leave for Boston. So the day he finished school, Malcolm took the Greyhound bus to Boston.

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