Columbia University to Create Malcolm X Research Archive
Columbia University and the daughters of Malcolm X recently announced a project to archive the slain Black activist’s personal papers and create an electronic version of his famous autobiography.
The project will also eventually include oral histories from 200 of Malcolm X’s relatives and contemporaries, a new biography and a multi-volume collection of his speeches, essays and letters.
The project was announced on the eve of the 36th anniversary of his assassination. Malcolm X was gunned down in Harlem’s Audubon Ballroom on Feb. 21, 1965, by three members of the Nation of Islam. In the audience were his four daughters and his wife, Betty Shabazz, who was pregnant with twin girls. Betty Shabazz died in 1997 of injuries from a fire set by a troubled grandson, Malcolm Shabazz, then 12.
One of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz’s daughters, Ilyasah Shabazz, says the family intends to provide Columbia with her father’s diary, letters and other personal effects.
The idea for the archive developed after some of the Shabazz daughters asked
Manning Marable, director of Columbia’s Institute for Research in African-American Studies, for help in organizing their parents’ papers. Marable, who has written 15 books on Black history, plans to use the new material to produce a definitive biography of Malcolm X over the next decade. Ilyasah Shabazz says Marable’s book will fill in the blanks left by The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
“The autobiography wasn’t completed when my father was assassinated,” she says. “It’s not completely factual. His early life, his parents — so many things are not in it.”
Marable says the archive will give scholars an opportunity to contemplate how Malcolm X’s image has changed over time.
“It is very rare in history where a historical figure exercises greater influence after death than in his life, and Malcolm is that rare individual who captured the imagination of the world after his death,” he says. “An entire generation of young African Americans who were not born when Malcolm was assassinated find lessons from his life that inspire them toward new levels of personal excellence and achievement.”
The Web site will be up and running within a year. The six Shabazz daughters will be interviewed as part of the oral history project.
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