"The Autobiography of Malcolm X," Vocabulary from Chapters 1-4

"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. dedicated
    devoted to a cause or ideal or purpose
    My father, the Reverend Earl Little, was a Baptist minister, a dedicated organizer for Marcus Aurelius Garvey’s U.N.I.A.
  2. exhort
    spur on or encourage especially by cheers and shouts
    With the help of such disciples as my father, Garvey, from his headquarters in New York City’s Harlem, was raising the banner of black-race purity and exhorting the Negro masses to return to their ancestral African homeland—a cause which had made Garvey the most controversial black man on earth.
  3. revile
    spread negative information about
    Soon, nearly everywhere my father went, Black Legionnaires were reviling him as an “uppity nigger” for wanting to own a store, for living outside the Lansing Negro district, for spreading unrest and dissension among “the good niggers.”
  4. harass
    annoy continually or chronically
    I told them how East Lansing harassed us so much that we had to move again, this time two miles out of town, into the country.
  5. belligerent
    characteristic of an enemy or one eager to fight
    My father was also belligerent toward all of the children, except me.
  6. afflicted
    grievously affected especially by disease
    I actually believe that as anti-white as my father was, he was subconsciously so afflicted with the white man’s brainwashing of Negroes that he inclined to favor the light ones, and I was his lightest child.
  7. mulatto
    an offspring of a black and a white parent
    It came directly from the slavery tradition that the “ mulatto,” because he was visibly nearer to white, was therefore “better.”
  8. complacent
    contented to a fault with oneself or one's actions
    By that I mean that I don’t know a town with a higher percentage of complacent and misguided so-called “middle-class” Negroes—the typical status-symbol-oriented, integration-seeking type of Negroes.
  9. militant
    disposed to warfare or hard-line policies
    I knew that the collections my father got for his preaching were mainly what fed and clothed us, and he also did other odd jobs, but still the image of him that made me proudest was his crusading and militant campaigning with the words of Marcus Garvey.
  10. redemption
    the act of delivering from sin or saving from evil
    “No one knows when the hour of Africa’s redemption cometh. It is in the wind. It is coming. One day, like a storm, it will be here.”
  11. menial
    used of unskilled work, especially domestic work
    Mr. Lyons had been a famous football star at Mason High School, was highly thought of in Mason, and consequently he now worked around that town in menial jobs.
  12. ignorant
    uneducated in general; lacking knowledge or sophistication
    She would speak sharply to the man at the grocery store for padding the bill, telling him that she wasn’t ignorant, and he didn’t like that.
  13. deterioration
    process of changing to an inferior state
    Some kind of psychological deterioration hit our family circle and began to eat away our pride.
  14. destitute
    poor enough to need help from others
    Perhaps it was the constant tangible evidence that we were destitute.
  15. hypocrite
    a person who professes beliefs that he or she does not hold
    She was the one who, years later, would tell me something that I remembered a long time: “Malcolm, there’s one thing I like about you. You’re no good, but you don’t try to hide it. You are not a hypocrite.”
  16. ridicule
    subject to laughter or mockery
    Whites have always hidden or justified all of the guilts they could by ridiculing or blaming Negroes.
  17. disintegrate
    break into parts or components or lose cohesion or unity
    Right then was when our home, our unity, began to disintegrate.
  18. chastise
    censure severely
    The woman who had brought me into the world, and nursed me, and advised me, and chastised me, and loved me, didn’t know me.
  19. novice
    someone new to a field or activity
    They matched me with a white boy, a novice like myself, named Bill Peterson.
  20. humiliation
    an instance causing you to lose prestige or self-respect
    But the worst of my humiliations was my younger brother Reginald’s attitude: he simply never mentioned the fight.
  21. deportment
    the way a person behaves toward other people
    With my deportment record, I wasn’t really shocked when the decision came that I had been expelled.
  22. condescension
    showing arrogance by patronizing those considered inferior
    This is the sort of kindly condescension which I try to clarify today, to these integration-hungry Negroes, about their “liberal” white friends, these so-called “good white people”—most of them anyway.
  23. conviction
    an unshakable belief in something without need for proof
    He may stand with you through thin, but not thick; when the chips are down, you’ll find that as fixed in him as his bone structure is his sometimes subconscious conviction that he’s better than anybody black.
  24. adept
    having or showing knowledge and skill and aptitude
    Anyway, from my experience as a little boy at the Lansing school, I had become fairly adept at avoiding the white-girl issue—at least for a couple of years yet.
  25. plight
    a situation from which extrication is difficult
    It was easier than my mother’s plight, with eight of us always underfoot or running around.
  26. feign
    make believe with the intent to deceive
    I couldn’t have feigned indifference if I had tried to.
  27. bourgeoisie
    the social class between the lower and upper classes
    I’ve often thought that if Mr. Ostrowski had encouraged me to become a lawyer, I would today probably be among some city’s professional black bourgeoisie, sipping cocktails and palming myself off as a community spokesman for and leader of the suffering black masses, while my primary concern would be to grab a few more crumbs from the groaning board of the two-faced whites with whom they’re begging to “integrate.”
  28. ghetto
    a poor densely populated city district
    This was the snooty-black neighborhood; they called themselves the “Four Hundred,” and looked down their noses at the Negroes of the black ghetto, or so-called “town” section where Mary, my other half-sister, lived.
  29. migrate
    move from one country or region to another and settle there
    Then the native-born New Englanders among them looked down upon recently migrated Southern home-owners who lived next door, like Ella.
  30. euphemism
    an inoffensive expression substituted for an offensive one
    “I’m with an old family” was the euphemism used to dignify the professions of white folks’ cooks and maids who talked so affectedly among their own kind in Roxbury that you couldn’t even understand them.
  31. transformation
    the act of changing in form or shape or appearance
    I’d seen some pretty conks, but when it’s the first time, on your own head, the transformation, after the lifetime of kinks, is staggering.
  32. connoisseur
    an expert able to appreciate a field
    They never had seen the feather-lightness that she gave to Undying, a completely fresh style—and they were connoisseurs of styles.
  33. pummel
    strike, usually with the fist
    If a showtime crowd liked your performance, when you came off you were mobbed, mauled, grasped, and pummeled like the team that’s just taken the series.
  34. notorious
    known widely and usually unfavorably
    The next time I saw her, she was a wreck of a woman, notorious around black Roxbury, in and out of jail.
  35. defy
    resist or confront with resistance
    Defying her grandmother, she had started going out late and drinking liquor.

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