At a Manhattan auction house on Thursday, a missing chapter from Malcolm X’s autobiography, as well as a manuscript for the book containing notes exchanged between Malcolm X and his collaborator, Alex Haley, were sold to one of the country’s foremost institutions chronicling the African diaspora.
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, located in Harlem, N.Y., on a boulevard bearing the late civil rights activist’s name, won the bidding for the unpublished materials, which had been locked away for a quarter-century by a private collector, reports the New York Times.
According to the Times, the Schomburg Center picked up an unpublished chapter titled, “The Negro,” for $7,000. It also picked up the full Autobiography manuscript for an undisclosed amount, along with “nearly a dozen unpublished fragments that had also gone unsold,” the paper writes.
There is a comforting symmetry to Malcolm X’s writings returning to Harlem, New York’s iconic black neighborhood; in his famous eulogy of Malcolm X, actor Ossie Davis referred to Harlem as Malcolm X’s “home of homes.” Researchers also told the Times they were relieved that his writings would be available to people interested in exploring and writing about his life, rather than being held by a collector.
Dr. Jeanne Theoharis, who attended the auction, told the Times that too often “whoever has money can buy what they like, scattering it to the winds.”
What’s most notable about the former Nation of Islam minister’s unpublished work is the light it sheds on his mind-state and the evolution of his widely-read and influential autobiography. It’s believed that the unpublished chapter, “The Negro” was considered too incendiary to be included in the final version of the book.
As the Times writes, the selection, marked as “Chapter 15,” begins this way:
“The Western World is sick. The American society—with the song of Christianity providing the white man with the illusion that what he has done to the black man is ‘right’—is as sick as Babylon. And the black man here in this wilderness, the so-called ‘Negro,’ is sickest of them all.”
The paper notes that little of the chapter references Malcolm X’s own life story and that it appears to have been written before his fateful break with the Nation of Islam.
The full manuscript, which contains notes and queries between Haley and Malcolm X, also reveal much about the editing process and the final construction of the book.
From the Times:
The manuscript for the published book shows the push and pull between Haley’s revisions and queries and Malcolm X’s, which were generally in red ink. In some places, Haley urges him to pull back on the soapbox pronouncements or to tone down the fierce denunciations of white people.
In others, he affirms Malcolm X’s comments, as in a passage describing corruption in “some of America’s topmost white circles,” where he pencils in “I know!”
The unpublished papers were part of an auction of African-American historical artifacts on Thursday. Among the items that went unsold: a Detroit house, priced at $1 million, in which Rosa Parks once lived.