From Mon Mar 18 13:15:06 2002
Date: Fri, 15 Mar 2002 12:00:37 -0600 (CST)
From: NY Transfer News <>
Subject: Auction of Rare Malcolm X Papers Cancelled
Article: 135069
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Malcolm X papers sale called off: Family’s Challenge Prompts Cancellation; Scholars Eager to See Newly Found Material

By Renee Koury, San Jose Mercury News, 12 March 2002

A treasure of personal writings by slain black radical Malcolm X were suddenly pulled off the auction block in San Francisco on Tuesday after questions arose about who really owns them.

Internet auctioneer eBay and Butterfields auction house canceled the planned sale next Wednesday of hundreds of long-lost writings, photographs and other material after family members said they would sue to get the collection back.

Meanwhile, scholars are eagerly awaiting a chance to see the works, hoping they will provide unprecedented insight into the personal life of the onetime Nation of Islam leader.

Seeing these materials will be of tremendous value, said Clayborne Carson, director of the King Papers Project at Stanford University and author of a book about Malcolm X and his FBI files.

Up until now we haven’t had many documents that allow us to get beyond the public persona of Malcolm X, he said. We have his autobiography and his speeches, but we don’t have any way of looking at an unedited version of his life.

The newly discovered Malcolm X papers inexplicably had been stashed in a Florida storage center, which apparently sold them at auction after someone failed to pay rent on the locker. The Florida buyer then brought them to San Francisco to sell at Butterfields and eBay.

But when members of Malcolm X’s family found out, they were incensed. Claiming the papers were theirs, they announced they would file a lawsuit to stop the sale. An attorney for the family could not be reached to comment.

It is mysterious because these papers are so important, said Charles Henry, chairman of African-American studies at the University of California-Berkeley, who is eager to see the papers. It’s amazing that someone would throw them out or put them in a storage locker and then not pay for the locker. And how did they get out of the family’s possession?

Butterfields declined to identify the owner.

But researchers and librarians were clamoring to get their hands on the rare papers and pleaded to keep the materials from being dispersed in separate lots at auction.

The collection is considered extremely important, scholars said, because so few of Malcolm X’s personal writings exist in public archives. The materials include hundreds of pages of diaries, photographs, handwritten speeches, letters, address books and his personal copy of the Koran. Butterfields estimated their value at between $300,000 and $500,000.

The documents span two decades of his life including his turbulent final year, when he broke ranks with the Nation of Islam and renounced his belief in racial separatism. The last documents were written shortly before he was assassinated in New York City in 1965.

Malcolm X, who converted to Islam while in prison for robbery, became famous for his powerful oratory in personal appearances before white audiences as well as Nation of Islam gatherings. He traveled the globe, discussing race relations with world leaders in Africa, Europe and Cuba. He also spoke on a weekly radio show, espousing the views of his Nation of Islam mentor, Elijah Muhammed.

His popularity grew during an era of civil rights activism and the emergence of black intellectuals. While Martin Luther King advocated peaceful change, Malcolm X, Muhammed and the Nation of Islam called for separation of the races, denouncing whites as the devil.

Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965 while giving a speech in New York. By then he had split with Muhammed and the Nation of Islam and renounced his separatist views.

The largest body of work about him—The Autobiography of Malcolm X, written with Alex Haley, which tells of his life and Islamic faith—has influenced generations of Americans. It was said to be an influence on John Walker Lindh of Marin County, who converted to Islam and went to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban.

Writings found in a notebook Malcolm X kept on his pilgrimage to Africa and the Middle East in April 1964 included his first impressions: I felt so humble. Never in America had I received such respect & honor as here in the Muslim world, just upon their learning I am a Muslim. People: white, black, brown, red & yellow all act alike, as one, as Bros. People with blue eyes & blonde hair, bowing in complete submission to Allah beside those with black skin & kinky hair.

Some historians hope the Malcolm X papers will shed more light on his personal life and his private thoughts. Four notebooks tell of his pilgrimage to Africa and Mecca, where he is said to have had a revelation causing him to soften his views on racial separatism.