III. In the eighth grade, something happened that Malcolm would later make reference to as "the first major turning point in my life." His white English teacher asked him to do a paper about the career he would like. Malcolm wrote about practicing law. But the teacher gave Malcolm a response that turned out to be the last straw: "A lawyer -- that's no realistic goal for a nigger. You need to think about something you can be," and suggested Malcolm become a carpenter and shrink from such fantasy and realize who he was. Malcolm was shocked. He had done fine as one of the top students in his class. But that he could not work with his mind seemed to be what his white teacher was saying. "It was then I began to change -- inside. I drew away from white people," he said. Malcolm finished his school year in stride with good grades, but was never happy again in school. He left Detroit and was sent to live that summer in Boston with his older stepsister and there he went to work, at first as a shoeshine boy at a famous ballroom. It was there that he would follow the fashion by putting a 'conk' on his hair. That mixture of lye, potatoes, eggs and vasoline would make it straight. It burned badly, but it did work. He would later describe this mistake: "This was my first big step toward destroying my dignity. Now I don't see how a black woman with any race pride can walk down the street," said he, "with a black man wearing a conk -- the mark of his shame that he is black." Malcolm worked at a number of jobs. One of them was on trains going back and forth between New York and DC. And this job was to be for Malcolm, another turning point in his life, for it would take him to Harlem. IV. And young Malcolm would love Harlem from the first moment that he was there. It was exciting and it was a place where black people would not have to bear racial hatred as he had all his life. A popular restaurant, Small's Paradise, hired Malcolm to work as a waiter, and it was there he learned about vice. He heard customers there talking about all manner of underworld activities, and before long, a friend talked him into selling marijuana by the baggie and key. Only 17, he quickly slipped into the underworld jungle there. And he became a well-known hustler during the next four years. It was where he sold drugs, gambled, ran numbers, and delivered bootleg liquor. He'd say, "The only thing I thought was wrong was what I got caught doing," in a later day. "I had a jungle mind. I was living in a jungle. Everything I did was done by instinct to survive." For Malcolm the lowest point in his life had begun. And yet all of this was important, for his ability to speak and organize would come partly from the fact that he had learned to be street-wise. And it was also while in Harlem that he learned what racism would do to black people, though it was a lesson that he would not really be able to understand until some time later. After a while, police and other gangs were looking for Malcolm, and so he went back to Boston where he would hang out with the same unsavory characters. He formed a group which would break into houses and rob them, but he got caught and he was sentenced to do ten years in prison. It was 1946, and Malcolm was not yet quite 21. But it would be another turning point for Malcolm before it was done. Continue