LINCOLN — Nebraska prison inmates now have easy access to one of the most famous prison transformation stories.
On Friday, the Omaha-based Malcolm X Foundation donated 96 copies of The Autobiography of Malcolm X to the Nebraska Department of Corrections for distribution through the nine state prison libraries.
The donation follows the Omaha-born human rights leader’s recent selection for induction into the Nebraska Hall of Fame.
“Malcolm’s story is one of redemption and perseverance,” said Omaha State Senator Terrell McKinney. “Malcolm dealt with some things early in life, but he was able to overcome them to become one of the most iconic voices for black Americans.”
State Corrections director Scott Frakes, who accepted the book donation at his agency’s Lincoln headquarters, said he read The Autobiography of Malcolm X when he was 12 and it helped him “see the world very differently “.
Once a street hood
In prison, Malcolm X, then known as Malcolm Little, transformed himself from a street criminal into an intellectual, teaching himself to write while embracing the Muslim religion.
He became a leading figure in the civil rights movement in the 1960s, urging black people to empower themselves and stand up to injustice “by any means necessary.”
Frakes said that Malcolm X’s transformational story was once the basis of a prison rehabilitation program.
“It’s a great travel story,” he said.
Alex Haley collaborated
The Autobiography of Malcolm X was the result of several interviews between human rights activist and journalist/author Alex Haley. It was first published in 1965, a few months after the assassination of Malcolm X. Time Magazine named it one of the top 10 non-fiction books of the 20th century, and it became the basis of Spike Lee’s 1992 film Malcolm X, starring Denzel Washington .
Paul Fielmann, an Omaha community activist and prison volunteer, initiated the donation because he felt it would be a good follow-up to the induction into the Hall of Fame. The books come from the Malcolm X Foundation, which operates a historic site at the civil rights activist’s birthplace near 34th Street and Evans Street in Omaha.
“Everyone was on board,” said Fielmann. “Malcolm is a role model for insiders to get out and stay out.”