Malcolm X Trove Set for Auction

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Speeches, journals and notes attributed to Malcolm X have surfaced under mysterious circumstances and are set for auction, prompting protests from the late civil rights leader's relatives, who claim they own the collection.

The trove contains hundreds of photographs and documents spanning two decades, including handwritten speeches, a Quran Malcolm X owned, and four journals he kept during travels to Africa and the Middle East in 1964, the year before he was assassinated.

The documents are ``phenomenally valuable material,'' said David Garrow, a civil rights historian at Emory University. ``Compared to everything else that exists in terms of original Malcolm documents, the scope of this collection is maybe 25 times as great.''

The journals, kept in small, spiral notebooks, are of particular importance because they cover the period when Malcolm X broke from the Nation of Islam and renounced racial separatism.

``This is a major kind of transformative period in his life,'' said Howard Dodson, director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. ``The trips to Mecca and to Africa were major factors in his rethinking many of his previous perspectives on issues of race, religion, of politics, of virtually everything.''

Many believe the documents are authentic, but question how they happened to turn up.

Catherine Williamson, director of fine books and manuscripts at Butterfields, said she could not reveal the owner, but said it was not a family member. She said the documents were bought at an auction by a self-storage center.

Joseph Fleming, an attorney representing several of Malcolm X's six daughters and the estate of his wife, Betty Shabazz, said he traced the sale of the documents to a Florida storage center.

He said he is seeking to void the sale, and intends to seek an injunction in California to prevent the March 20 auction by Butterfields and eBay, which owns the auctioneer. He said he intends to file court papers as early as Monday.

Fleming said family members had believed the documents and photographs were in their possession. He declined to say how the documents ended up in the storage center or where they had been stored.

``This is their property,'' he said. ``When you lose a father and a mother the way they've lost their father and mother, you cling to those things that represent the legacy of your family.''

Shabazz died in 1997 of burns sustained in a fire set by her grandson.

Garrow and others expressed concern the documents could be purchased piecemeal by private collectors who would not make them available to researchers. In response, Butterfields said Thursday it will offer the documents as a single unit.

``It would be a travesty if it were in fact auctioned off piece by piece and scattered to the four corners of the world,'' Dodson said.

He said the Schomburg Center, one of the New York Public Library's research facilities, is trying to raise money to buy all the documents.

Scholars, Malcolm X's Family Fight

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Plans by an auction house to sell off a collection of speeches, journals and notes written by Malcolm X have alarmed scholars and angered his family.

Butterfields, which scheduled a March 20 auction for the items, describes them as ``an extensive, historically important archive of handwritten and typed speeches, correspondence and photographs'' that include Malcolm X's personal Koran and journals he kept while traveling to Africa and Mecca. It expects the auction to bring $300,000 to $500,000.

Butterfields spokesman Levi Morgan said the owner acquired the papers at an auction held by a self-storage center.

If the archive is genuine, scholars say it could force the rewriting of previous histories of Malcolm X's life and thoughts.

``There are so few truly personal Malcolm documents in public archives that this apparent collection swamps the total corpus of all other materials several times over,'' said David Garrow, a civil rights historian at Emory University.

Malcolm X's relatives said they have little doubt the collection is authentic but fear it may have been illegally acquired.

Their attorney, Joseph Fleming, cited a 1999 attempt by Butterfields to sell a bloodstained address book that had been in Malcolm X's pocket when he was assassinated in 1965. The book was withdrawn from auction after it turned out to have been stolen by a court clerk from an evidence safe in Manhattan.

Fleming is seeking a legal injunction to stop the auction.

Butterfields says it is confident the items were legally acquired.

Howard Dodson, director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, said the center is actively raising money to buy the documents so the public can view the collection in its entirety.

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