For decades, a question loomed over a towering 20th-century book The Autobiography of Malcolm X: What happened to the reputedly missing chapters that might have contained some of the most explosive thoughts of the African-American firebrand assassinated in 1965?
The answer came on Thursday, when an unpublished manuscript of a chapter titled “The Negro” was sold by Guernsey’s auction house in Manhattan — for US$7,000.
“We are like the Western deserts; tumbleweed, rolling and tumbling whichever way the white wind blows, and the white man is like the cactus, deeply rooted, with spines to keep us off,” Malcolm X writes.
The buyer was the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, based in Harlem.
Center Director Kevin Young confirmed that this was an unpublished missing section of Malcom X’s autobiography, a 241-page draft of which the Schomburg also acquired for an undisclosed sum.
The manuscript of the autobiography was for years owned by Gregory Reed, a lawyer for Rosa Parks, who purchased the collection from author Alex Haley’s estate.
The draft of the entire book is of immense value, beyond the historic, for the handwritten revisions and comments by Malcolm X and Haley, Young said in a telephone interview after the auction.
Their dialogue, in writing, reflects the human rights activism of the Muslim minister, who indicted white America for what he saw as criminal behavior against blacks; opponents, including the US government, accused him of inciting racism and violence.
He was assassinated in Harlem in 1965 by three members of the Nation of Islam, a radical religious movement, shortly after he had broken away from the group.
The scribbled notes in the manuscript — not available until now — “are a very direct narrative that he’s crafting, and that’s what brings him into the world,” said Young, citing an image of a racist cross-burning that Malcolm X’s mother described to him as a child.
As for the loose fragments of Malcolm’s writing-in-the-works: Were these parts of possible other missing chapters?
“I examined them, and I don’t know what those are, it’s too early to tell; they look like they were probably stapled at one time, or cut and pasted; some are half of a page, or just slips of paper,” Young said. “The best way to describe them is that they’re literal fragments and literary fragments.”
It might take years before the story of the fragments is pieced together.
“You see in these pages the history of black people in America, and we’re bringing the sons and daughters of Harlem home,” Young said.
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