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Malcolm X End of Class Discussion: "Nightmare", Chapter One of The Autobiography

My father prevailed on some friends to clothe and house us temporarily; then he moved us into another house on the outskirts of East Lansing. In those days Negroes weren't allowed after dark in East Lansing proper. There's where Michigan State University is located; I related all of this to an audience of students when I spoke there in January, 1963 (and had the first reunion in a long while with my younger brother, Robert, who was there doing postgraduate studies in psychology).

I told them how East Lansing harassed us so much that we had to move again, this time two miles out of town, into the country. This was where my father built for us with his own hands a four-room house. This is where I really begin to remember things-this home where I started to grow up. After the fire, I remember that my father was called in and questioned about a permit for the pistol with which he had shot at the white men who set the fire. I remember that the police were always dropping by our house, shoving things around, "just checking" or "looking for a gun." The pistol they were looking for-which they never found, and for which they wouldn't issue a permit-was sewed up inside a pillow. My father's .22 rifle and his shotgun, though, were right out in the open; everyone had them for hunting birds and rabbits and other game.

After that, my memories are of the friction between my father and mother. They seemed to be 

nearly always at odds. Sometimes my father would beat her. It might have had something to do 

with the fact that my mother had a pretty good education. Where she got it I don't know. But an 

educated woman, I suppose, can't resist the temptation to correct an uneducated man. Every now 

and then, when she put those smooth words on him, he would grab her. 


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