Watch Malcolm X: Make It Plain
Malcolm X: Make It Plain is a powerful documentary that explores the life and legacy of American civil rights leader Malcolm X. Originally released in 1994, the film was directed by acclaimed filmmaker Orlando Bagwell and produced by PBS as part of their acclaimed American Experience series. At its core, Malcolm X: Make It Plain aims to provide a deeper understanding of the man behind the iconic image. Unlike many Hollywood depictions of Malcolm X, which focus solely on his fiery speeches and confrontational persona, this documentary takes a more nuanced and comprehensive approach. Through interviews with family members, activists, journalists, and scholars, as well as archival footage and photographs, the film traces Malcolm X's journey from struggling young man to revered hero.
The first part of the documentary follows Malcolm X's childhood and early adulthood. Born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska in 1925, he was raised in a family of activists who fought against racial injustice. However, when Malcolm was still young, his father was murdered by white supremacists and his mother was institutionalized. These traumas, combined with poverty and discrimination, led Malcolm down a troubled path that included drug use and criminal activity. He eventually landed in prison, where he had a transformative experience that inspired him to embrace Islam and join the Nation of Islam, a black nationalist organization led by Elijah Muhammad.
The film goes on to detail Malcolm X's rise to prominence within the Nation of Islam, where he became known for his powerful oratory and uncompromising approach to racial justice. He gained a large following throughout the United States and became a leading voice in the fight against white supremacy. Throughout this period, Malcolm was often at odds with other civil rights leaders, particularly those who advocated for integration with white society. However, he continued to inspire millions of people with his courageous and unapologetic message of black liberation.
The final section of the film explores Malcolm X's split with the Nation of Islam and his journey towards a more inclusive and intersectional approach to social justice. After discovering that Elijah Muhammad had engaged in extramarital affairs and fathered children with multiple women, Malcolm became disillusioned with the organization and began to speak out against its leadership. He also began to embrace a more inclusive vision of black liberation, recognizing that other groups facing oppression, including women and LGBTQ people, must also be included in the struggle.
Throughout the documentary, key figures in Malcolm X's life offer their reflections on his legacy. His wife, Betty Shabazz, shares personal anecdotes about their relationship, while his brother, Wilfred Little, discusses Malcolm's early life and struggles. Other notable interviewees include journalist Amiri Baraka, civil rights activist Angela Davis, and Nation of Islam member Louis Farrakhan.
Overall, Malcolm X: Make It Plain is a captivating and informative documentary that sheds new light on the life of one of America's most important social justice leaders. It highlights the complexity of Malcolm X's beliefs and actions, and the wide-ranging impact he had on the struggle for racial equality. Whether you are a seasoned activist or simply curious about Malcolm X's life, this film is sure to leave you with plenty to think about.