Malcolm X: The Quintessential Intellectual

Essay by ccpwriterCollege, UndergraduateA, March 2004

download word file, 3 pages 3.6

After being put in prison, a street hustler named Malcolm changed his life, embarking on a journey that would alter the course of the civil rights movement. In prison Malcolm was frustrated with his lack of writing skills while trying to express himself in letters. He decided to acquire a dictionary to expand his meager vocabulary. Diligently he studied new subjects, eventually copying the entire dictionary and becoming well versed in politics, social and racial issues, with an emphasis on history. The kind of education he didn't't learn in school as a child. When Malcolm was released , he went on to lead a movement spreading the true nature of history and the role of the oppressed within it. He was not concerned with the status of an academic degree; he instead utilized his prison resources to pursue his homemade education. According to writer Ilan Stavans, an intellectual is someone who uses his/her mind to "take risks, wander around with eyes wide open, venture into unforeseen lands, and make use of any tools at his/her disposal in order to seize the meaning of their environment in full scope."

The life and work of Malcolm X proves himself a model of the type of person Stavans describes in his statement regarding the definitive characteristics of an intellectual.

According to Stavans, an intellectual " wanders around with eyes wide open , and ventures into unforeseen lands. This portrays a person determined to learn and experience new things. Living in prison could be seen as a dreary existence and not conducive to motivated educational discovery. Yet, Malcolm absorbed his surroundings. He symbolically " ventures into new lands" with learning of the world.

Malcolm X took what he learned about the history of blacks and other cultures that suffered under oppression , and...