Just days before the scheduled release of The Diary of Malcolm X, X Legacy LLC, a corporation representing the heirs of Malcolm X, secured a temporary restraining order in Manhattan federal court against the book’s publisher, Third World Press, to halt its publication. Co-edited by journalist Herb Boyd and Malcolm X’s third daughter, Ilyasah Al-Shabazz, The Diary of Malcolm X chronicles Malcolm X’s activities in Africa in 1964.
A court date to decide whether the estate can extend its publication ban is set for Friday, November 22 in Manhattan federal court.
According to published reports, X Legacy claims that Third World Press, a Chicago-based independent black publishing house, does not have the right to publish the diary. But according to Bennett Johnson, v-p of Third World Press, the publisher has a valid, signed contract. X Legacy was created in 2005 to represent the heirs of Malcolm X and his wife, Betty Shabazz.
Boyd is the author and editor of over 10 books including By Any Means Necessary: Malcolm X Real, Not Reinvented (Third World Press). He contributes to the New York Amsterdam News, and is an adjunct professor of Black Studies at City College in Manhattan. Ilyasah Al-Shabazz is the author of Growing Up X; A Memoir By the Daughter of Malcolm X (One World/Ballantine), and is an activist and lecturer.
Citing the temporary restraining order, principals on both sides of the case declined to speak to PW, but according to a source with knowledge of the suit—who spoke with PW on the condition of anonymity—the plaintiffs with X legacy, “are probably [Ilyasah’s sisters] Attallah, Quibilah, and Gamela Shabazz,” noting that “Malikah Shabazz has self-exiled herself from the family.” Another sister, Malaak Shabazz, supports Ilyasah.
At stake in this suit is the publication of the diary, which is part of a collection of Malcolm X’s papers, housed on loan at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. Considered by scholars to be a document of incalculable historical importance, the diary chronicles the black activist’s trips to Africa and the Middle East in 1964, after he left the Nation of Islam, and one year before he was assassinated in 1965.
The diary records his observations and commentaries, which include his pilgrimage to Mecca, and his interactions with a myriad of people of many colors and races. It also contains his impressions of the many political leaders, intellectuals, activists and artists he encountered, including Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser, Ethiopia’s Haile Selassie, and Guinea’s leader, Ahmed Sekou Toure, Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah and author Maya Angelou, who was living in Ghana as an expatriate.
In a promotional video produced by Third World Press as part of a crowdfunding campaign to publish the book, Herb Boyd said, “This particular book … which he compiled over two trips to Africa and the Middle East, will add to the literary canon. The Diary humanizes him in a way that some of these other scholars set out to do. This is Malcolm uninterrupted, without any kind of editorial interference.”