Summary of 'Learning to Read' by Malcolm X

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In "Learning to Read," an excerpt found in The Autobiography of Malcolm X, author Malcolm X attacks his illiteracy while imprisoned for battling the white man. Malcolm in his conversations with other prisoners realized he wasn’t the most articulate hustler any more as he used to be in the street. Bimbi a fellow prisoner in Charlestown Prison would take over conversations because of his vast vocabulary and knowledge from reading. Malcolm was not only impressed but aspired to be as intelligent. Malcolm explains “Bimbi made me feel envy of his stock of knowledge.” When he started his sentence the highest education he had was at an eighth grade level he received as a child. So Malcolm begins reading to acquire the same eloquent speech, but he comes across a problem. Malcolm couldn’t understand but every few words in such sophisticated books as Bimbi read. Malcolm became frustrated because he could only read the words he knew but in the end had no understanding of what he just read. Malcolm felt as though he was reading another language, such as Chinese. While in Norfolk Prison he checked out a dictionary, tablets and pencils from the Norfolk Prison Colony School. After months of crash course memorizations of the dictionary, books start to reveal stories, meanings, and to teach history. As his new found knowledge increased from reading every book he could get his hands on, so did his disgust for the whitened world in which he lived. His education started with the teachings of Mr. Muhammad who stressed “how history had been whitened” meaning when the history books were written by white men, the black man was simply left out. This bothered Malcolm and because of this he hunted down any book in that library that had any information at all about black history. Books like The Wonders of the World and Negro History taught him about black empires before black slavery and the early Negro’s struggle for freedom. He also came across some bound pamphlets of the Abolitionism

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