Gaining Freedom Through Language

537 Words3 Pages
To hear Malcolm X speak now, people might think he had gone to school much past the eighth grade. Malcolm X rose from the street and an eighth grade education to become one of the most articulate and well-spoken African Americans in history. Malcolm X discovered something in the process of learning a new language. He learned that language is liberating; and an event or an awakening of some kind can spur the thirst for knowledge and can set a person on the path to freedom. Malcolm X, in the story "Coming to an Awareness of Language," made a realization when he was imprisoned at the Norfolk Prison Colony that he couldn't express what he wanted to say in letters. He was frustrated that he was barely functional to write a simple letter. When on the street, Malcolm commanded attention by the words he said. But how could he effectively write "Look daddy, let me pull your coat about a cat. Elijah Muhammad . . ."(86) when he wanted to share the plight of the black man in America? Furthermore, when Malcolm would read, he skipped over the words he didn't understand. This made it very hard to understand most of the materials that he read. Bimbi, another inmate, who seemed to captivate his audience with the spoken word, impressed him. Malcolm needed to learn what words meant and how to write and, then, he was waking up to a new world. Malcolm X had few choices but a significant desire to command the written word. Along with copying and studying every page in the dictionary, his penmanship improved. With these simple yet committed acts, he finally began to understand the words in the books that he read. He wrote, "It was because of my letters that I happened to stumble upon starting to acquire some kind of homemade education" (64). Where Malcolm's education was self-taught, he began realizing there was so much more to life as he copied, studied and devoured words from the
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