Images of America

A Social and Historical Look
at America Through the Movies

Study Guide - Malcolm X (1992)

Director : Spike Lee

Stars :
Denzel Washington .... Malcolm X
Albert Hall .... Baines
Al Freeman Jr. .... Elijah Muhammad
Delroy Lindo .... West Indian Archie
Spike Lee .... Shorty

Preparation :
Read the movie reviews by Roger Ebert and the Reel History Historical Context article

Historical/Social Significance :
"Spike Lee's "Malcolm X" is one of the great screen biographies, celebrating the whole sweep of an American life that began in sorrow and bottomed out on the streets and in prison before its hero reinvented himself. Watching the film, I understood more clearly how we do have the power to change our own lives, how fate doesn't deal all of the cards. The film is inspirational and educational - and it is also entertaining, as movies must be before they can be anything else." Roger Ebert

Synopsis :
Malcolm Little was born in 1925 in Nebraska. He went from being a criminal to one of the leaders of American Islam as Malcolm X.

    Guided Questions for Viewing :
    Assessment questions will be based on the following :
  • Discuss the four stages of Malcolm's life with reference to his names : Malcolm Little, Detroit Red, Malcolm X, and el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz
  • Discuss the differences between Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. In particular discuss what each thought was the best method for gaining racial equality. Looking back at them today, whose method do you think was best? Why?
  • Why did Malcolm X leave the Nation of Islam?
  • Describe the evolution of Malcolm X's view on race with reference to particular scenes in the movie and the different stages of his life.
  • Do you think Malcolm X is a true American Hero? Reference the movie in your answer.
  • In what ways did Spike Lee take artistic license with Malcolm's life? Do you think these changes were necessary to make the film more interesting?
  • The four stages of Malcolm's life, when he was known as Malcolm Little, Detroit Red, Malcolm X, and el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, can be looked on as representing four different stages in African American social history since the Civil War. Discuss the four different stages with reference to Malcolm X and the movie.
  • What role do women play in this movie and in Malcolm X's life?

Ebert, Roger. "Malcolm X".

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