"The Autobiography of Malcolm X," Vocabulary from Chapters 5-9

"The Autobiography of Malcolm X" bears witness to the gradual development of a revolutionary consciousness that endeavored to change the world.

Learn these word lists for the autobiography: Chapters 1-4, Chapters 5-9, Chapters 10-13, Chapters 14-19

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. originate
    come into existence; take on form or shape
    Everything I’d ever heard about New York City was exciting—things like Broadway’s bright lights and the Savoy Ballroom and Apollo Theater in Harlem, where great bands played and famous songs and dance steps and Negro stars originated.
  2. efficiency
    skillfulness in avoiding wasted time and effort
    Vaughn worked with almost unbelievable efficiency in the cramped quarters.
  3. astound
    affect with wonder
    I was astounded to find in the nation’s capital, just a few blocks from Capitol Hill, thousands of Negroes living worse than any I’d ever seen in the poorest sections of Roxbury; in dirt-floor shacks along unspeakably filthy lanes with names like Pig Alley and Goat Alley.
  4. prestige
    a high standing achieved through success or influence
    For the Negro in Washington, mail-carrying was a prestige job.
  5. gaudy
    tastelessly showy
    Later on, even later that night, I would find out that Harlem contained hundreds of thousands of my people who were just as loud and gaudy as Negroes anywhere else.
  6. coup
    a sudden and decisive change of government by force
    The Theresa is now best known as the place where Fidel Castro went during his U.N. visit, and achieved a psychological coup over the U.S.
  7. depraved
    deviating from what is considered moral or right or proper
    I was going to become one of the most depraved parasitical hustlers among New York’s eight million people—four million of whom work, and the other four million of whom live off them.
  8. obsessed
    having excessive or compulsive concern with something
    We were in that world of Negroes who are both servants and psychologists, aware that white people are so obsessed with their own importance that they will pay liberally, even dearly, for the impression of being catered to and entertained.
  9. conspicuous
    obvious to the eye or mind
    Cadillacs, secondhand and new, conspicuous among the cars on the streets.
  10. uncouth
    lacking refinement or cultivation or taste
    By that time, they had a laughing bet going that I wasn’t going to last, sales or not, because I had so rapidly become such an uncouth, wild young Negro.
  11. inevitable
    incapable of being avoided or prevented
    It was inevitable that I was going to be fired sooner or later.
  12. envy
    feel desirous of another's advantages
    My appearance staggered the older boys I had once envied; I’d stick out my hand, saying “Skin me, daddy-o!”
  13. indispensable
    Both of these, depending on how they liked the waiter, could make his job miserable or pleasant—and I meant to become indispensable.
  14. reminisce
    recall the past
    There, I heard the old-timers reminisce about all those great times.
  15. paternal
    characteristic of a father
    Some of the ablest of New York’s black hustlers took a liking to me, and knowing that I still was green by their terms, soon began in a paternal way to “straighten Red out.”
  16. patronize
    be a regular customer or client of
    Whites who came at night got a better reception; the several Harlem nightclubs they patronized were geared to entertain and jive the night white crowd to get their money.
  17. persuade
    cause somebody to adopt a certain position or belief
    I heard stories of how they had “ persuaded” people with lead pipes, wet cement, baseball bats, brass knuckles, fists, feet, and blackjacks.
  18. threadbare
    thin and tattered with age
    A man who, in his prime, could have stolen Dollarbill’s whole roll, blindfolded, was threadbare, comic old “Fewclothes.”
  19. tragedy
    an event resulting in great loss and misfortune
    In another sense, the tragedy of the once master pickpocket made him, for those brother old-timer hustlers, a “there but for the grace of God” symbol.
  20. decorous
    characterized by propriety and dignity and good taste
    Actually, for the night-life crowd, Small’s was one of Harlem’s two or three most decorous nightspots.
  21. domineer
    rule or exercise power over in a cruel and autocratic manner
    Domineering, complaining, demanding wives who had just about psychologically castrated their husbands were responsible for the early rush.
  22. virile
    characteristic of a man
    They said that after most men passed their virile twenties, they went to bed mainly to satisfy their egos, and because a lot of women don’t understand it that way, they damage and wreck a man’s ego.
  23. inhibited
    held back or restrained or prevented
    People in show business, of course, were less inhibited by social and racial taboos.
  24. pitiful
    inspiring mixed contempt and sorrow
    He looked dumb and pitiful and just up from the Deep South.
  25. impair
    make worse or less effective
    It wasn’t only Small’s Paradise law, it was the law of every tavern that wanted to stay in business—never get involved with anything that could be interpreted as “ impairing the morals” of servicemen, or any kind of hustling of them.
  26. surveillance
    close observation of a person or group
    Even if I wasn’t actually what was called ‘‘hot,’’ I was now going to be under surveillance—and the Small brothers had to protect their business.
  27. archetype
    something that serves as a model
    And a few were amused, seeing me as the “Harlem jigaboo” archetype.
  28. intuition
    instinctive knowing, without the use of rational processes
    The next time I went into one of those games, intuition told me to stick my gun under my belt right down the middle of my back.
  29. exploit
    use or manipulate to one's advantage
    I was a true hustler—uneducated, unskilled at anything honorable, and I considered myself nervy and cunning enough to live by my wits, exploiting any prey that presented itself.
  30. hesitate
    pause or hold back in uncertainty or unwillingness
    As is the case in any jungle, the hustler’s every waking hour is lived with both the practical and the subconscious knowledge that if he ever relaxes, if he ever slows down, the other hungry, restless foxes, ferrets, wolves, and vultures out there with him won’t hesitate to make him their prey.
  31. infuriated
    marked by extreme anger
    Old-timers told me that Harlem had never been the same since the 1935 riot, when millions of dollars worth of damage was done by thousands of Negroes, infuriated chiefly by the white merchants in Harlem refusing to hire a Negro even as their stores raked in Harlem’s money.
  32. convulse
    shake uncontrollably
    And we laughed about the scared little Chinese whose restaurant didn’t have a hand laid on it, because the rioters just about convulsed laughing when they saw the sign the Chinese had hastily stuck on his front door: “Me Colored Too.”
  33. cotillion
    a ball at which young ladies are presented to society
    The already Croesus-rich white man can’t get another skyscraper hotel finished and opened before all these integration-mad Negroes, who themselves don’t own a tool shed, are booking the swanky new hotel for “ cotillions” and “conventions.”
  34. rely
    have confidence or faith in
    I came to rely more and more upon my brother Reginald as the only one in my world I could completely trust.
  35. elite
    a group or class of persons enjoying superior status
    West Indian Archie had the kind of photographic memory that put him among the elite of numbers runners.
  36. integrity
    moral soundness
    He also required integrity and sound credit: it wasn’t necessary that you pay as you played; you could pay West Indian Archie by the week.
  37. commodity
    articles of commerce
    I believed that a man should do anything that he was slick enough, or bad and bold enough, to do and that a woman was nothing but another commodity.
  38. foreboding
    a feeling of evil to come
    She has since told me that she had a steady foreboding that I was on my way into big trouble.
  39. gullible
    naive and easily deceived or tricked
    Gullible women often took the girls all over their houses, just to hear them exclaiming over the finery.
  40. speculate
    reflect deeply on a subject
    But people are always speculating—why am I as I am?

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