Unpublished chapter of Malcolm X’s autobiography acquired by New York library
An unpublished chapter of “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” which had been out of the public eye as it had remained in private hands for decades, was sold to the New York Public Library on Thursday.
The New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, in Harlem, acquired the unpublished chapter titled “The Negro”, and the full 241-page manuscript of Malcolm X’s autobiography that contained handwritten edits by him and his collaborator Alex Haley
“These materials are extremely significant, as they can provide researchers with extensive new insights into the writing process and thoughts of one of the most important and influential figures and books of the 20th Century,” said Schomburg Center Director Kevin Young.
The Schomburg Center also acquired a series of literal and literary “fragments,” or short notes and drafts by Malcolm X written or typed on small pieces of paper.
The unpublished portions of the civil rights activist’s biography had been thought too controversial to be published when the book came out in 1965. But the notion of unpublished chapters had intrigued historians and scholars for years.
According to a press release from the library, “The 25-page typewritten chapter — titled “The Negro” — is thought to be one of three unpublished chapters in existence.” It is as yet unclear why the chapters were removed.
“Knowing that there exists chapters that were not included in the final production has inspired a quest really to find out how did Malcolm want to finish the story,” said Zaheer Ali, an oral historian at the Brooklyn Historical Society. “What did he say that wasn’t included? Why did it not get included? There are so many questions about what he meant, what he was trying to convey.”
The unpublished portions had remained with Haley, the author of “Roots,” who had collaborated with Malcolm X on his biography. When Haley died in 1992, the “lost chapters” were purchased by an attorney, Gregory Reed, in an auction.
This week, about 17 pieces, including unpublished chapters and documents written by Malcolm X and Haley, as well as the 257-page manuscript of his biography, were put on auction at Guernsey’s, a New York-based auction house.
The prospect of the unpublished pieces coming into public had excited scholars, students and others who had closely followed the iconic black leader’s life.
Ali said that he learned in the early 2000s in a book that there were three chapters that never made it into the final text of the biography. At that time, he was working as the project manager for the Malcolm X Project at Columbia University.
“There were pieces of Malcolm X’s story scattered across the country and we were trying to find them,” he said. “They were privately owned, never made available to the public. I mean people had papers and recordings in their garages.”
Ali said he was elated to hear that the documents will go to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, because “it’s the fittest place to be, given that Malcolm’s papers are there, including his diary.” Both the manuscript with the original notes and the unpublished pieces would provide insight into the iconic leader’s life, he said.
“His story belongs to the masses,” Ali said.
The Schomburg Center already holds and makes accessible to scholars over 16 linear feet of Malcolm X manuscript material, including a diary, letters, speeches, photographs, and journals. Those items are on long-term loan at the Schomburg Center from Malcolm X’s family.
Guernsey’s two-day auction featured African-American historic and cultural items, including a letter by Rosa Parks in which she described her first encounter with Martin Luther King Jr., the first record label contract signed by the Jackson Five in 1967 and a Steinway Grand piano owned by jazz legend Art Tatum. The auction house did not return CNN’s request for comment on the outcome of the auction.