Act I begins with the night in Lansing, MI when the Little family-including a young Malcolm-hears, at a Marcus Garvey meeting, that Malcolm's father has been killed. The family and neighbors assume his death is caused by white racists. The Little family collapses and Malcolm travels to the seductive and crime-ridden streets of Boston. Malcolm and accomplices commit a burglary and are caught, arrested, and jailed.
Act II follows his conversion to Islam and rapid rise in the Black Muslim movement, his relationship and conflicts with Black Muslim's leader, Elijah Muhammad, his successful preaching career, and finally his remark about President Kennedy's assassination, that America's chickens were coming home to roost.
Act III follows his break with Elijah and his journey to Mecca, his second conversion to orthodox Islam (he changes his name to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz), his return to the Harlem riots of 1964, the founding of the Organization of Afro-American Unity, and finally his assassination.