The autobiography of the charismatic African American leader Malcolm X, published shortly after he was assassinated in February 1965, is widely viewed as one of the most influential works of African American literature to be produced in this century. Based on material dictated by Malcolm X, the book itself was written by Alex Haley; although some critics initially questioned its authenticity, it is generally accepted as a valid expression of Malcolm's views. The book recounts the many transformations Malcolm underwent during his lifetime. Starting with his childhood in Nebraska and Michigan, it describes his drift into life as a hustler, drug dealer, pimp, and eventually, convict, his subsequent conversion to Islam, and his rise through the ranks of the Nation of Islam, an African American organization headed by Elijah Muhammad that preached black pride and typified whites as inherently evil. Malcolm's eloquent and biting denunciations of white culture, Christianity, integration, nonviolence, and the civil rights movement made him a prominent and controversial national figure. In the early 1960s, Malcolm became increasingly critical of Elijah Muhammad's worldly lifestyle; he broke with the Nation of Islam and made a pilgrimage to Mecca, where the apparent absence of racial discrimination among Muslims of many races caused him to revise some of his earlier ideas, including his blanket condemnation of whites. Taking the name El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, he began to expound worldwide black unity based on Marxist-Leninist principles. His disagreements with the Nation of Islam had led to his being targeted for retribution by that organization, and the end of the book portrays him enduring the harassment and threats that would soon culminate in his assassination.