Chapter One: "Nightmare"
The Autobiography of Malcolm X begins with Malcolm Little telling about his years as a trouble-making but clever child in the 1930s. His father, Earl Little, is a Baptist preacher who advocates the "back-to-Africa'' philosophy of black activist Marcus Garvey. Once, their house is burned down, and another time it is damaged—both times by groups of white men. His mother, Louise, is made a widow when Earl is murdered; then the state welfare agency tries to break up the family. Eventually, fighting against the state and struggling to keep her children fed becomes too much for Louise, and she is committed to a mental asylum. The children are sent to various foster homes in the region.
Chapter Two: "Mascot"
Malcolm is expelled from school when he is thirteen years old, and state officials move him to a detention home. Though Malcolm is a very popular student at the white junior high school and is elected the seventh-grade class president, he later feels that he was simply a "mascot" for the school.
His half-sister Ella invites him to visit her in Boston for the summer, a visit that changes his life by showing him a world outside his small town. When he returns to school the next fall, a school counselor tells Malcolm that he should not consider becoming a lawyer because he is black. Ella invites him to move to Boston.
Chapter Three: "Homeboy"
Malcolm lives with Ella in the "snooty-black'' neighborhood of Boston. But Malcolm is attracted to the ‘‘town ghetto section,’’ where he meets Shorty, a pool hall employee. The two strike up an immediate friendship, and Shorty finds Malcolm a job shining shoes at the famous Roseland State Ballroom. Shorty also initiates Malcolm into the various aspects of city living, including straightening his hair through a painful process called "conking.'' Looking back, Malcolm sees this as his ‘‘first really big