Malcolm’s mother is depicted as a proud woman who was finally broken by white welfare people. She was a light-skinned woman and was ashamed of her white blood. She thought of her white grandfather, probably correctly, as a rapist, and, more than her militant husband, she taught her children to value their blackness. She seemed to favor the darker-skinned children over the light-skinned Malcolm.
She seems to have been less self-sufficient and more sensitive than her husband, but she, too, was a very strict parent. Her insistence upon certain dietary taboos for the family, especially abstention from pork and rabbit, was a point of constant contention with her husband. But it probably helped clear the way for her children’s acceptance of similar taboos in the Nation of Islam and the Muslim faith.
After her husband’s death, she did her best to keep the family together. She passed for white and got cleaning jobs with white families, but it finally became necessary for the family to go on welfare, despite her pride. Finally, the constant surveillance by white welfare agents was too much for her. She had a brief affair with a black man from Lansing, but when that ended, she was no longer able to keep the family together. She suffered a serious mental breakdown and was committed to an institution in 1937. There she remained until 1963, when her family secured her release. During the time in the hospital, Malcolm rarely saw her. He felt she was beyond recall, and his affection for her was such that he could not think of her in those circumstances. But after her release, he reported to Alex Haley that she had improved remarkably, both mentally and physically.