Literacy is the ability to read and write and allows people to become influential speakers and powerful leaders. Strictly defined, literacy is the quality or state of being literate, having possession of education, and a person’s knowledge of a particular subject or field. Literacy is not having or involving ignorance; it is having knowledge or competence. The term literacy is derived from the Middle English and Latin term literate meaning marked with letters.
In the story Malcom X Literacy Behind Bars, Malcom X defines how literacy changed his life by introducing new things such as, oral communication, freedom, and helped to become an independent spokesman. Malcom X relied on oral communication. In prison, he became frustrated with his inability to read or write well, and he began to take advantage of the prison library. Before he went to jail, Malcolm describes himself as hustler, as one who could speak very well: he was an excellent speaker, a master of orality. (Anthony) He found his street-wise slang inadequate to express new ideas and a new worldview.
Malcolm X found himself in a situation that demanded literacy; he needed to racionate–to think logically and deeply in order to communicate. Malcolm X in a sense bought into the idea that literacy is imperious. (Samper)Because Malcom X had access to a library he was able to become more interested in public speaking. “Many who today hear me somewhere in person, or on television, or those who read something I’ve said, will think I went to school far beyond the eighth grade this impression is due entirely to my prison studies. (Bullock, 577) Prison made him want to communicate on a higher level relating to others. As Malcom X continued his success in literacy he soon became free.
The introduction of literacy made him notice the injustices towards blacks, so he then realized that he was capable of freedom. He stated in the story that as he read a little more he became more sensitive to the deafness, dumbness, and blindness that was afflicting the black race in America. Malcolm X realized that speaking only the slang terminology of his surroundings kept im a prisoner in his own mind. The only people finding to anything he had to say of relevance were those in his immediate surroundings. By writing the words from the dictionary and reading more Malcolm X slowly began to free himself from the street mentality to an open minded individual. Imprisonment was the first since of freedom that Malcolm X knew. Malcom X spoke strongly on what he believed with words that were well articulated, which lead him to be the great spokesman he is today.
He spoke out on different things for black people in America. As a spokesman for the Nation of Islam he taught black supremacy and advocated separation of black and white Americans—in contrast to the civil rights movement’s emphasis on integration. Malcolm X spoke profoundly on freedom, revolution, religion, racism and love. One of Malcolm X known quotes is “if you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything. “(Malcom X) Malcom X experiences with reading and writing ultimately made him a more confident person.
He realized that he could teach himself something that no one else could teach him, and no one else could take away from him. It is truly amazing how powerful the knowledge of literacy is; it is almost as if it is the only weapon that can never be destroyed but can destroy anything. Malcolm X’s journey to literacy was a growth process that extended from writing, to reading and comprehending, and extended to oratorical speaking. Literacy is and will always be one of the key components to a successful and prosperous life.