Alex Haley's Son Wants Malcolm X Letter

Alex Haley (Ron Galella/Getty Images)

The son of Malcolm X's biographer, Alex Haley, is asking Syracuse University to turn over a letter the civil rights icon wrote in 1964 about his shifting views on race relations, claiming that the Haley family is the rightful owner of the document. Malcolm X wrote to Alex Haley, his collaborator for The Autobiography of Malcolm X, from Saudi Arabia in April 1964, about 10 months before he was assassinated in New York City.

The publisher of the autobiography later gave the letter to Syracuse University as part of a larger cache of papers to be used by researchers. Now much more than a piece of correspondence, it's a valuable piece of history, estimated to be worth $250,000. It's no surprise that the university isn't giving it up without a fight.



The letter — considered by many historians to capture a watershed moment in Malcolm X’s life and philosophy, became part of “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” which Haley co-wrote and Grove Press published in 1965. Four years later, Grove’s owner agreed to give his company’s files — including that letter — to Syracuse University, where they sit today on the sixth floor of Bird Library.

Now, Haley’s son wants that letter back. A rare documents dealer working with William Haley says the letter is worth $250,000 and has demanded SU turn it over. A lawyer for William Haley says said it rightfully belongs to Haley and his two sisters.

 “There was not a direct transfer of any ownership to (SU) of that letter, nor did Grove have ownership of the letter,” said Gregory Reed, a Detroit attorney who also collects Malcolm X documents.



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