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Articulating What a Text Reveals About Its Context: "Learning to Read" by Malcolm X

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  • March 11, 2007
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In Learning to Read, Malcolm X, one of the most articulate and powerful leaders of black America during the 1960s, describes his struggle of self-education while being incarcerated. Malcolm X composed his journey of self-in order to convey the message that the reader should strive to look for more than what is taught to them by the public school system, to, in a way, look outside the box.

The three portions of the rhetorical triangle, to analyze Learning to Read, are the audience, author, and text (sometimes referred to as the argument). In Learning to Read, the main audience is comprised of those who are being educated by the public school system. The author of Learning to Read is, simply, Malcolm X. Malcolm X was one of the most eloquent and influential African-American leaders during the heated 1960 segregation period of America. He was noted as being the leading spokesman for black separatism, a philosophy that urged African-Americans to cut political, communal, and financial ties with the white community; in other words, meaning that African-Americans should diverge from being part of White America. He became an orthodox Muslim in 1964 and was assassinated in 1965. The text (or argument) of the work was to persuade the targeted audience that they should strive to look for more than what is taught to them by the public school system. Malcolm X chose to present this text due to the fact that he was self-educated during his stay in prison.

Context is defined as the larger textual and cultural environment in which specific rhetorical acts take place. This means that while Malcolm X was incarcerated, there were larger events affecting his perception. As Malcolm X taught himself to read, the racial events in America were very heated. The animosity that Malcolm X had toward the Anglo-Americans showed in Learning to Read. One example of Malcolm Xs despise of whites is when he states, Book after book showed me how the white man had brought upon the worlds...