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Malcolm X documents recovered.

Aside from his speeches and acclaimed autobiography by Alex Haley, Malcolm X's life has mostly been written by others. Missing in many of the documents amassed over the years are the intimate details of his life. As a result, researchers quietly resolved that his private thoughts and ideas would never be collected in a scholarly archive due to the paucity of personal records--at least until a few months ago.

In early March, San Francisco auctioneer Butterfields announced that it was selling a trove of handwritten and typed speeches, photographs, journals, and private letters of El Hajj Malik El Shabazz. For scholars and collectors, the find represents a critical part of the puzzle in piecing together historical documents that record Malcolm X's ideas and opinions, and provide a crucial element in understanding this African-American leader's thinking. However Butterfields, which is owned by ebay, withdrew the lot of Malcolm X's personal effects from its scheduled March 20th auction because of "third party issues with the transfer of titles" according to Catherine Williamson, a director for the auction house. The auction has been postponed until the matter can be resolved. And the documents, with an estimated value of between $300,000 and $500,000, may or may not be returned to the family depending on a ruling by a Florida court.

"There was always the hope that there were papers, but only the family knew if they existed" says Howard Dodson, director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. The Schomburg is in discussions with the Shabazz family to curate the collection, and if successful, plans to retain the documents.

"The type of care that he [Malcolm X] took with those journals" says Lisa Lee, a genealogist who examined the material at Butterfields in Los Angeles, "The penmanship, the detail that it includes, it is obvious, at least to me, that he wanted this part of his life to be told."

The fact that Malcolm X's journals and papers do indeed exist, has many wondering why these details have not been shared before, and why his intimate side is still such a mystery? Because the journals have been in the family's possession meant that the surviving daughters went through painstaking measures to keep their father's personal effects in private hands.

Emily Bernard, author of Remember Me to Harlem: The Letters of Langston Hughes and Carl Van Vechten says, "I wouldn't have been able to do my book if I hadn't had full access to Van Vechten's life. Malcolm lived his life to instruct and made his mistakes public, and that humanized him. It is a noble way to live," observes Bernard.

"Malcolm wasn't a trophy to be in a glass house. It [the documents] serves no purpose being in a drawer or in a safe."
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Author:Gipson, Michelle R.
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2002
Words:466
Previous Article:Daughter of destiny.
Next Article:Growing Up X.
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