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Table of Contents
Using the Collection
Note: some material may be restricted or offsite
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Series III: Aborted Projects, 1990-2001
Series VI: Primary Source Research--Government Surveillance Files, 1953-2008
Series VIII: Malcolm X Documents, Speeches, Photographs and other Material
Series IX: Biography Research Files
At a Glance
Material is arranged into eleven series.
The Malcolm X Project (MXP) records represent nearly 25 years of research, constituting the most in-depth scholarly examination of the life and legacy of Malcolm X to date. The collection consists of the research that Dr. Manning Marable used to write his Pulitzer-Prize winning biography, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Restrictions on Access
You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.
This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.
Drafts of Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention are closed until 2037.
Some unique time-based media items have been reformatted and are available onsite via links in the container list. Commercial materials are not routinely digitized. For access to undigitized audiovisual materials, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Materials in box 61 are restricted by agreement between the project and the Nation of Islam.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Malcolm X Project records; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. Contact email@example.com for more information.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
2011.2012.M086: Source of acquisition--Leith Mullings via Glenn Horowitz, bookseller. Method of acquisition--Purchase; Date of acquisition--03/29/2012.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Papers processed 2014-2015 by Adrien Hilton and Carrie Hintz
Restricted Louis Farrakhan oral history materials removed from boxes 18 and 38 and moved to box 61. kws 2022-10-12
2015-01-14 xml document instance created by Adrien Hilton
2016-03-16 xml document instance updated by Catherine C. Ricciardi
2016-05-02 xml document instance updated by Catherine C. Ricciardi
2016-06-28 xml document instance updated by Catherine C. Ricciardi
2018-03-30 XML document instance updated by Catherine C. Ricciardi
2019-02-12 Changed references to box 26 in Series IX: Biography Research Files to box 27. kws
2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.
History / Biographical Note
The Malcolm X Project (MXP) papers represent nearly 25 years of research, constituting the most in-depth scholarly examination of the life and legacy of Malcolm X to date. The collection consists of the research that Dr. Manning Marable used to write his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention. Dr. Marable first considered writing a political biography about Malcolm X in 1987, when he was a professor at Ohio State University. Marable was astonished that "no comprehensive biography" existed for Malcolm X, a man "who arguably had come to personify modern, urban Black America in the past half century." While the majority of scholarly work on Malcolm X assumed that the portrayal offered by The Autobiography of Malcolm X was historically accurate, Marable quickly identified parts of Malcolm's life that were previously overlooked.
Starting in 1989 at the University of Colorado-Boulder and then proceeding in earnest at Columbia University in 2000, Marable filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Police Department, and Bureau of Secret Services. He hypothesized that given the extensive surveillance of Malcolm's organizations, access to police records would fill gaps in the chronology of his life and also provide insight into his assassination. Additionally, Marable wanted to broaden the scope of knowledge about the organizations with which Malcolm was affiliated throughout his political career in order to provide a more detailed analysis of his ideological and political break with the Nation of Islam (NOI) in 1964 and his subsequent political development. While archival repositories held fragmented records of Malcolm X and his affiliations, the Shabazz family held the vast majority of remaining personal papers, correspondence, speeches, and diaries from these collections until 2003. Stored in the basement of the home of Betty Shabazz, Malcolm X's wife, the files were transferred to a storage unit in Florida until the facility put the files up for auction following a failure to pay. The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture was able to negotiate for the long-term loan of this material, preserving the integrity of the collection and opening it to researchers for the first time. MXP analyzed material from the Malcolm X Collection, as well as from repositories across the nation. This research led Marable to interrogate the original narrative about Malcolm X's life--Alex Haley's Autobiography. Drawing from letters in the collection of Haley's biographer Anne Romaine, literary agent Paul Reynolds, and editor Ken McCormick, Marable's research revealed that Haley and Malcolm had competing political objectives in writing the Autobiography. Collectively, the new sites of inquiry that Marable's research initiated constitute the Malcolm X Project.
This collection compiles material from the three initiatives that resulted in the final Malcolm X Project. The first component, an interactive analysis of the Autobiography, was constituted through the Malcolm X Project Multimedia Study Environment (MSE), a collaboration between Dr. Marable and the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CCNMTL). This digital repository provided space for critical inquiry into the autobiography by offering interpretations through four distinct lenses: culture, globalism, politics, and faith. The multiple lens approach was designed to illuminate both the continuities and contradictions that ran through the memoir, providing further room for contextualization. The MSE launched in 2004 replete with an exhaustive chronology, 275 discrete annotations, course syllabi, videotaped lectures of Marable's courses on Malcolm, oral histories, as well as relevant secondary articles and media coverage. The lectures and course syllabi reveal the evolution of Marable's analysis of the life and assassination of Malcolm X. Marable believed in broad public access to historical knowledge, so a selection of oral histories, secondary sources, and interviews with scholars were extended for public use. Included in the MXP papers are emails detailing the genesis of the MSE, course syllabi, course lecture notes, and asset lists. Among the notable interviews are discussions with several activists and scholars, including Ossie Davis, Robin D.G. Kelley and Farah Jasmine Griffin.
The second portion of the MXP papers provides a series of richly textured oral histories. These interviews with public figures, close associates, and police operatives offer new insight into Malcolm X's personal, professional and political state of mind. Of note are interviews with Gerry Fulcher, the New York City police detective responsible for monitoring illegal wiretaps on Malcolm X and who later became openly critical of the NYPD's tactics; Abdullah Abdur-Razzaq, then known as James 67X, a close friend and confidante of Malcolm X's; Herman Ferguson, a prominent member of Malcolm's Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU); and Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam and the former protégée of Malcolm X. The collection also contains interviews with Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson, both charged and convicted in Malcolm's assassination.
The MXP has compiled a vast collection of archival and periodical files. The material from the Schomburg Center has been removed for copyright reasons. Government files of note include Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) files on Malcolm X, Ella Collins, Betty Shabazz, Herbert Muhammad, and Malcolm X's two independent political organizations: the Muslim Mosque, Inc. (MMI) and the OAAU. Other government records include Malcolm X's prison file and the mental health records of Malcolm's mother, Louise Little. Additionally of note are the estate records of Earl Little, including police transcripts following the arson of the Little's Lansing, Michigan home; a glossary of key individuals, organizations, and events related to Malcolm's life; and a series of chronological news articles relating to Malcolm. The news archive, including international coverage, pays particular attention to Malcolm's trips to Mecca, his interest in the Middle East and freedom struggles in the Arab world, as well as coverage of his break with the Nation of Islam.
In addition, the collection includes material establishing Marable's analytic approach as well as details on his process. Folders on key characters aggregate voluminous material used to construct multidimensional profiles. A comprehensive chronology details Malcolm's daily movements, to the extent that information exists, and provides the sources that document them. Finally, the collection contains all chapter drafts (embargoed for 25 years), some handwritten on thousands of pages of yellow loose-leaf paper.
The Malcolm X Project records represent the research behind Dr. Marable's richly textured historical analysis presented in the biography Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, awarded a Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction in 2012. The research collection, amassed with the aid of nearly twenty graduate students, is a testament to Dr. Marable's conviction that history should be a public enterprise, where democratic access and multiple perspectives contribute to the making of the past as well as the present.
For more information on the ideological conception of the project see Manning Marable (2005), "Rediscovering Malcolm's Life: A Historian's Adventure in Living History," Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society 7, no. 1, 20-