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Autobiography of Malcolm X And Can't StopBook Report

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¶ … Autobiography of Malcolm X and Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation have been increasingly studied by various scholars because they provide important insights about Black Nationalism by examining the complexities in the life of some Americans. The Autobiography of Malcolm X is an account of the life of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley, the author. In contrast, Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation is an account of how hip-hop crystallized the perspective of a polycultural and multicultural generation as well as changed politics and culture in America. These books have been studied by many scholars because of their significant insights regarding American politics and culture.

Summary of the Books

The Autobiography of Malcolm X begins by tracing Malcolm X's early years in Michigan as one of Reverend Earl and Louise Little children. Malcolm's father was not only a minister at a local Baptist church but was also the coordinator of Universal Negro Improvement Association, a group started by Marcus Garvey in the 1920s to bring black people back to Africa. The family lived on a farm in Lansing, Michigan and was self-sufficient though poor. By the time he was 12 years old i.e. In 1937, Malcolm X's father had been brutally killed while the mother was institutionalized. Actually, Malcolm's father died in 1931, which resulted in the commencement in the dissolution of family unity. Malcolm was sent to live with another family in 1937 since he was gradually becoming a discipline problem. The author also recounts Malcolm X's years as a teenager living in Boston, Chicago, and Harlem in New York City. He was transferred from Michigan to Boston after poor performance because of racial prejudice from his English teacher. It was in Boston that Malcolm became attracted to street life and ended taking a job that took him to New York City (Haley, p.20).

Malcolm X's entry to street hustling occurred at a time when African-Americans were facing devastating racial segregation and prejudice i.e. between the 1940s and 1950s. Malcolm was sentenced to prison for 10-years for robbery in 1946. He experienced a significant spiritual and moral transformation while in prison following the discovery of the teachings of Honorable Elijah Muhammad and his Nation of Israel (Haley, 11). As a result, he studied and learnt about the history and traditions of black people across the globe and commits his life to spreading these teachings. After Malcolm X was released from prison in 1953, he not only moved to Detroit but also started a recruitment initiative for the Nation of Islam. During this period, he even went to Chicago to meet Elijah Muhammad and ended up quitting his job and living with Muhammad to study under him before returning to Boston to initiate a Black Muslim temple.

Following the establishment of the Nation of Islam movement, Malcolm started travelling across the country before his marriage to Betty Shabazz in 1958. They moved to New York and her four daughters while Malcolm was the minister of Temple Number Seven in addition to organizing other temples throughout the country. He was soon disenchanted with the movement because he wanted it to take a leading role in dealing with racism in America. As Malcolm's popularity grew, Elijah Muhammad became jealous and distanced himself from Malcolm. This culminated in Malcolm X's creation of a new organization that focused on fighting racism in America through political activism. As the organization grew and increasingly de-emphasized religious bias because of the need for including all blacks, Malcolm ended up making two pilgrimages to Mecca where he experienced people of all nationalities and races living in the true sense of brotherhood, which made him renounce his beliefs about black separation. The author concludes by giving details of Malcolm's tragic assassination in 1965 that was reportedly organized by Black Muslims though not proven.

Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation was written by Jeff Chang in attempts to provide a comprehensive, relevant, and fascinating history of hip-hop culture. The book seemingly covers every significant aspect of the rise and spread of the hip-hop culture including social conditions, stories of people and communities, transformation to a culture of resistance and re-organization into consumerism and individualism. In the first few chapters of the book, Chang focuses on exploring social conditions that prevailed in New York, especially the South Bronx, in light of how they contributed to the rise of the hip-hop culture. This region i.e. The South Bronx was characterized with rapid economic deterioration following the loss of more than 500,000 jobs in the manufacturing industry between 1960s and 1970s. One of the major events that shaped the early hop-hop culture was the creation of Cross-Bronx Expressway between 1948 and 1972 (Chang, p.10). The construction of this road contributed to the relocation of more than 50,000 residents with African and Latino residents being majority.

After many manufacturing jobs were lost in South Bronx, the area was not only characterized by economic deterioration but also experienced high rates of youth unemployment that was projected to be approximately 80%. Chang argues that the hip-hop culture would emerge from conditions of unemployment just like the blues culture rose from oppressive conditions and forced labor. The economic degeneration of the region resulted in emergence of gangs, race tensions, slum landlords, drugs, and insurance scam fires that became common in South Bronx. During this period, the government ignored the ghetto by closing social programs and substituting them with fictitious economics. As gangs became prominent in Bronx, youths continued to form them for self-defense and eventually for power. However, there were several efforts by several movements for political change such as The Black Panthers that focused on transforming gangs from self-destruction to revolution. For instance, Fred Hampton, the legendary Black Panther was increasingly creating alliances with several gangs because he believed they might develop to become a potent revolutionary force. During this period, The Young Lords gang, a Puerto Rican revolutionary group in New York, transformed from a street gang to an organization that helped the community. This initiative has a powerful impact on gangs in South Bronx since they had discovered a common enemy i.e. The police.

A new era of unity started to develop among gangs since they found mutual ground in opposing the police, poor social provision, junkies, and heroin dealers. This eventually created a platform for different gangs, blocks, and races to mix as they were all attracted to the rising block party scene characterized by music that was largely influenced by sound system culture from Jamaica. After writing about social conditions that prompted the emergence of hip-hop, Chang focuses his attention on the origin of political rap. Since the mid-80s was a period when avoiding politics was relatively difficult, hip-hop started becoming political as poor people started lamenting about government and corporate attack on their communities. Hip-hop soon rearranged itself as a political thing that was presented in form of rap as evident in the emergence of Public Enemy, the most significant political rap group in the nation's history. After the description of the hip-hop culture and generation, Chang concludes by giving examples of how grassroots activists have used hip-hop to bring positive impacts in their communities.

Analysis of the Books

The Autobiography of Malcolm X is a book that can be read in several ways including as an autobiography, as a sociological work, as a religious work, and as a political work. As an autobiography, this book provides information about the life story of one of the most influential leaders in the history of African-Americans. As sociological work, this book offer significant insights regarding life in the ghetto and ways of survival in such a setting. As religious work, The Autobiography of Malcolm X demonstrates the struggles of Malcolm X in his efforts to find his God. However, the strongest impact of the book occurs when it is read as a political work because of the great influence Malcolm has had on several African-American radical political movements, especially after his death. While the exact political position at the end of Malcolm's life is unclear because he had renounced his Black separatist beliefs, the book has continued to have significant effects on Black radical political groups and initiatives.

Malcolm X's attitudes as expressed in this book seem contradictory because it was written over a two-year period, one of which Malcolm was still a Black Muslim minister. The other reason for the seeming contradiction in Malcolm's attitudes is that he died before the book could be finalized, which makes it difficult to show his exact direction during the end of his life ("Malcolm X Biography," par, 27). However, the author clearly demonstrates the rise of an African-American man from street hustling, drug dealer, and thief to become one of the most dynamic and influential leaders in contemporary America.

To readers, The Autobiography of Malcolm X not only shows the underside on American life in the 20th Century and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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