Significant archive of material related to the life and death of Malcolm X, consisting of three letters (addressed to Elijah Muhammad, Redd Foxx, and another proclaiming “I hate no one because of their color”), three original handbills and broadsides, and a large collection of over 30 period photographs, the union of which chronicles Malcolm X’s evolution from a divisive Nation of Islam figurehead to an enlightened, if not controversial, leader of the Civil and Human Rights movement.
First, a TLS signed “Malcolm X,” two pages, 8.5 x 11, June 28, 1954, addressed from his New York home at "25-35 Humphreys, E. Elmhurst 69.” Shortly after his appointment as minister of Temple No. 7 in Harlem (June 1954), an enthusiastic and driven Malcolm X seeks to widen his following by recruiting more "fishermen" to the Nation of Islam. Here he writes to his mentor, Elijah Muhammad, in full (spelling retained): “Bro William 3X, of #1 Michigan, is visiting his people in Philadelphia, so he held down the rostrum there Friday night and Sunday, freeing me to be here, even though I was schedualed for there yesterday. I'm not going to get off my schedual tho, I'll be here Wed as scedualed, back there on Friday, and here Sunday (4th). Bro William 3X will be here at #7 with me Wed night. Bro Joseph will carry on there.” The ‘X’ and corresponding number following a brother's name denoted his chronological place upon being accepted into the brotherhood at a certain temple. For example, "Brother William 3X" signifies that he was the third person with the first name of William to convert to the Nation of Islam at #1 Michigan.
“Bro Joseph can really teach. He has much FIRE, but has always been reluctant to take the rostrum, however I left Bro Wm 3X working on him, and I think he will soon be blossoming out and able to help you much in that Field.
“The enclosed record of yesterdays attendence will show you why I don't like to miss being at #7 myself on Sundays. Last Sunday we had 27 lostfounds, and yesterday we topped even that, with 28 LOSTFOUNDS. We even topped our previous attendence record, with 188 present for the day. This coming Sunday I am going to be pushing them to top the 200 mark. Bro Ulysses EX came down yesterday, and he did teach well, his subject was ‘Mossa 's History.’ I invited him down mainly because from my own experience I know it adds to the Minister's spirit and zeal when he can get away at times and visit other Temples. Boston should be doing better, and the Brother and Believers there only need be instilled with the desire to do better. We shall see if the trip produces any results (smile). I think the chance to teach here added to his zeal and will make him try and Progress there instead of being satisfied for things to just ‘move along.’ Three other Muslims from Boston, two young Bros and a Sister will be here in New York and Philadelphia for a week, and I'm certain they too will return to their work with more ZEAL.
“A genuine UNITY seems to be coming into being here at #7, thanks to Allah, and I'm certain the Progress you desire to see Muslims make, will be made here. Everyone seems to be trying to outdo the other in FISHING. By the way, I sent a challenge to #1, that we intend to bring in more fish than any other Temple by October. If I can instill within them the spirit to try and outdo us in catching FISH, they too will really be growing (without even realizing it). Also #2, if you want to tell them that #7 has challenged them to a FISHING CONTEST perhaps the challenge will inspire them to get out and bring in the MANY YET-UNSCALED FISH that are right there in that big city. If they beat us, we can treat them to somthing, and if we beat them….(smile). We'll think of something. Please let me know what you think of this and perhaps I can inform the Muslims by Next Sunday when we have our 200 present (smile).
“Something must be done to get this dead man, and the answer to our problem will always be realized whenever we can get the MUSLIMS THEMSELVES to go out FISHING, instead of ‘teaching.’ The best way to do this is to dangle a potential prize before his nose, and then he'll get up and go after the dead….yes sir, we have to BAIT our own MUSLIMS into becoming FISHERMEN. We have to bait them into becoming BAITORS. In other words, we must FISH FOR FISHERMEN. Do you see what I mean.
“I am taking a group of Muslims and Lostfounds to the New York Museum of Natural History this morning, and must dash. Please give the GREETING to all the Believers from all here. I havent Been in Philadelphia since thurs, but will be back there this Thurs and Fri.” A fascinating and lengthy letter punctuated by Malcolm's noteworthy usage of metaphor in relation to recruitment.
Next is an ALS signed “Bro Malcolm X,” penned on the reverse of a color glossy 5.5 x 3.5 postcard showing a photo of a chimpanzee at the ''Monkey Jungle'' in Miami, Florida, postmarked from Miami on February 19, 1964. The handwritten letter is addressed to legendary comedian Redd Foxx, and it reads, in full: “One hundred years have passed since the Civil War, and these chimpanzees get more recognition, respect & freedom in American than our people do, because even the monkeys that lead them have more sense than the monkeys that lead us.” This letter dates to just two weeks before Malcolm X left the Nation of Islam (NOI), reportedly because of the over-control of its leaders, and six days before Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) defeated Sonny Liston in Miami on February 25th for boxing's World Heavyweight Championship. Malcolm X had long served as a NOI mentor to Clay, and a day later on February 26th, it was the young boxer who formally made his name change to Muhammad Ali. Additionally, his phrasing of 'the monkeys that lead us' is a bold criticism of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Third, a TLS signed “Malcolm X,” one page, 7.25 x 10.5, personal red script stationery, February 2, 1965, written from “23-11 9th Street, East Elmhurst, 69, New York," and addressed to Miss Ellenie R. Ash of Amsden, Ohio, in full: “I was very happy to receive your letter in which you very frankly, objectively and intelligently spoke your mind. I admire people who are honest and frank. If more were this way it would be a better world: less hypocrisy, confusion and hate. But in speaking with frank honesty we must always be certain to respect the rights of others to disagree with us and to also be just as frank in expressing their own points of disagreement.
“I hate no one because of their color. My judgement of people is based upon their deeds, their intentions, their conscious behavior. However, the strong position of economic and political power and prestige enjoyed by the present generation of white Americans does stem from the exploitation done to millions of BLACKS here in this country during slavery by the past generations of whites. The negative characteristics in most Black Communities aren't inherent weaknesses of The Blacks, but are the affects that still are with us from the days of slavery. Slavery was so cruel and inhuman that we in this present generation still bear the scars from what was done to our grandparents by your grandparents.
“However, if anything meaningful is ever done by whites to undo the physical and psycological harm done by slavery to the Blacks…it will have to be done by the young whites of your generation. Moslem is only the anglicised form of the Arabic word Muslim. Moslem and Muslim are the same word, with the same meaning. It means one who has submitted himself completely to the will of God, by accepting Islam, which in Arabic only means the 'religion of submission to God.’ I enjoyed hearing from you and hope you will feel free to write again. I stay busy but will answer when I can.” Shortly after this letter, in the middle of February 1965, Malcolm X's home was fire-bombed. He believed that leaders of the Nation of Islam—and even more powerful elements within the American government—wanted him dead. One week after this episode, on February 21st, Malcolm X was assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem. Three men, two of them Black Muslims, were convicted of the killing and given life sentences; the trial did not reveal whether or not the assassins were part of a conspiracy. A poignant and historically significant letter with excellent passages exhibiting the continual evolution of the Civil Rights icon—after going to Mecca in 1964, Malcolm X had experienced an epiphany that prompted his disillusionment with the Nation of Islam, as well as with its leader Elijah Muhammad. He traveled to Mecca as Malcolm X, a militant Black Muslim, and came back el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, a believer in Sunni Islam who no longer saw the white man as the devil, and who pursued a new path of Black Nationalism and Pan-Africanism. This remarkable letter shows quite vividly his new belief system, and which is starkly different from the 1954 letter that opens this archive.
The remainder of the archive contains rare visual and historical documentation of Malcolm X’s profound role throughout the turbulent social landscape of 1960s America, with handbills and broadsides announcing Harlem rallies and numerous period photographs that capture his momentous withdrawal from the Nation of Islam to his eventual martyrdom outside of the Audubon Ballroom. The balance of the archive is as follows:
Original 8.5 x 11 broadside for a New York City rally, headed “War! War! Yes, a Hell of a War! Will Be Declared on the Mess that Stinks in Messy Mississippi,” held in Harlem on March 23, 1963, which included speakers Malcolm X, Adam Clayton Powell, James L. Watson, Edward R. Dudley, C.S. Stamps, James L. Hicks, Percy Sutton, Dick Gregory, Lewis Michau X, Hulan E. Jack, Jackie Robinson, and Robert Kinloch.
Original 6 x 9 handbill for an “Outdoor Mass Rally,” advertising a free rally to be held in Harlem on June 29 , where attendees will hear Malcolm X ("as taught by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad") answer questions such as "Who has made Harlem a slum community?, Who controls the drug traffic, prostitution, numbers racket and the large sale of wine and whiskey? How can we stop this organized destruction of the moral fiber or our community?" Included with the handbill is a glossy 10 x 8 wire photo of the above rally, depicting Malcolm X standing on a platform in front of a lectern, speaking to a large crowd. A caption below reads: “The leader of the black supremacy cult told more than 2,000 persons attending to 'get the white monkey off your back' and to put an end to practices of narcotics addiction, alcoholism and vice.”
Original 8.5 x 11 broadside for a “Memorial Service for Malcolm (X) Shabazz,” to be held at Chicago's Tabernacle Baptist Church on April 4, 1965, some six weeks after Malcolm X was murdered. The service notes the speakers as Ossie Davis, Dr. T.R.M. Howard, John O. Killens, and Lawrence A. Landry. The broadside includes two 8.5 x 11 form letters from the Educational Fund for the Children of Malcolm (X) Shabazz, dated March 20th and 29th, 1965, which announce the death and then the memorial service of Malcolm X.
A group lot of 10 glossy wire photos, ranging in size from 7.75 x 5.5 to 8 x 10, dated between January 1963 and February 23, 1965, which includes images of Malcolm X sitting in his office, speaking to reporters, leaving a radio station with police escort in the wake of death threats, exiting his car at the place of his assassination one week later, and more. All photos have captions and all but three of the photos are stamped on the reverse “United Press International Photo.”
A collection of 22 original glossy photographs related to the death of Malcolm X, ranging in size from 7 x 7.75 to 11.25 x 7.75, which includes images, some graphic, of the ballroom right after the killing, the body being wheeled out shortly after the assassination, his grieving widow Betty, scenes from the funeral, including mourners lining the streets of New York as the body was transported to the cemetery, and the burial. In overall fine condition, with an old tape repair to the postcard, touching several words of text.