Alex Haley's Son Spars Over Historic Malcolm X Letter

Syracuse University is in posession of the contested letter the slain leader wrote to the acclaimed Black writer while on pilgrimage in Mecca.

Posted: 05/29/2012 11:42 AM EDT

In 1964, just one year before Malcolm X was assassinated, he penned what is perhaps one of his most pivotal writings in the form of a personal letter to Alex Haley, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Roots and co-author of The Autobiography of Malcolm X. The letter was written during Malcolm X’s pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca and chronicled a shift in his ideas about race and religion. Today, it is valued around $250,000.


Undoubtedly a significant historical document, the letter currently resides in a library at Syracuse University in New York. According to Alex Haley’s son, William, the pricey letter should be with the writer’s family, The Post-Standard writes:

"'What I have seen and experienced on this pilgrimage has forced me to ‘rearrange’ much of my thought patterns and to toss aside some of my previous conclusions,' he [Malcolm X] wrote.


Ten months later, Malcolm X was assassinated in New York City. 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."


Read the full story here.


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(Photo: Courtesy Nicholas Lisi/The Post-Standard)

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