FROM HOMEBOY TO AMERICAN ICON: IMAGE TRANSFORMATION OF MALCOLM X, 1965-1999.
Gill, Lisa Marie
Parks, Sheri L
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This dissertation examines and analyzes the transformation of Malcolm X's image from the representation as the "Angriest Black Man in America," to the intellectual, political American leader of the 1990s. Malcolm was recognized for his outspoken defense of oppressed black and poor people, his leadership in Islam, and transformation from an ostracized political figure to an authority on the plight of black Americans. Recently, X has become a symbol of American individuality, a champion of human rights. Seen by contemporaries and future admirers as the quintessential black man, X's image has been appropriated to represent facets of black male identity to mainstream culture, rendering it consumable to a variety of groups. This dissertation contributes to the evaluation of Malcolm's work in the civil rights movement and his resulting image. It does so in two important ways; first, it positions X as a theoretician on the black diasporic experience and secondly, it significantly cites the importance of X's connection to the African diaspora and his work to connect blacks to that diaspora. By accounting for the images produced by Malcolm himself, it then chronicles the materialization of new images by black nationalists, scholars, black youth culture of the 1990s, Spike Lee, the Shabazz family, and mainstream popular culture beginning shortly after the assassination of Malcolm in 1965 and continuing until the end of the twentieth century. Unlike the images of other civil rights leaders, X's image was contested when appropriated by the mainstream. Analysis of major developments, (X, the postal stamp of 1999, material produced during the 1990s, etc.), will demonstrate how the image circulated from the sole possession of the black community to American mainstream culture. The battle for control over the representations of his image and its meanings can be construed as the struggle between retaining a black champion and creating an American icon. Ultimately, the goal was to establish Malcolm as the ideal black man, who not only predicted the trajectory of the movement, but also established and demonstrated racial pride in black American manhood, in spite of the toll that this position took on his life.