In the movie title American History X, what exactly does X represent?

I could think of Roman numeral X (10) or generation x, however, I don't seem to fully understand the meaning.

2 Answers 2


There are some possible answers here:

The "X" is there to stand for all the things we want to hide. (Remember the X-files). It has nothing to do with Malcolm X but the X in Malcolm X is also to hide something. The last name of Malcolm X was a white man last name and he wanted to hide it.

I disagree with your statement about what the X stands for in the title of the movie as well as the X-files and Malcolm X. X stands for the unknown. In the Autobiography of Malcolm X he explains that since he was given a white man's name he never knew his real last name. hence he changed it to X to symbolize the unknown. also the x files are called the x files because they are reports on the unknown behavior of the paranormal and supernatural.

Maybe the "X" has something to do with the graphical ressemblance with a swastika symbol, as well.

As a college student, I see this often. When the university starts a class and it is still in the experimental stage, it is given a course number followed by an X.... for instance, CompSci403X. The X indicates that it is a new course and that changes are still being made. I think that Sweeney was thinking of this method when he named Danny's class "American History X". Danny's class was new, experimental, individualized, and certainly not a part of his original curriculum.

  • The first point seems to make most sense, implying something like "untold things" from American history.
    – eYe
    Commented Apr 14, 2016 at 15:29
  • 6
    The X-files are called the X-files because they were originally filed under U for unsolved but they started running out of room so they moved the unsolved files to the X drawer where there was plenty of room. See the following post at SciFi SE for more info
    – sanpaco
    Commented Apr 14, 2016 at 18:12

If you recall the scene in which Danny (Edward Furlong) hands in his paper titled "My Mein Kampf", his principal (Avery Brooks) informs him that he will now teach Danny one-on-one in a class titled "American History X". The X is meant to stand for "New", just like its usage in "Generation X". This is a re-education of Danny in which he will be forced to see History from a new angle, in an effort to change his thought process.

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