A court date has been set for March 6 in Manhattan Federal Court to decide whether X Legacy LLC, a corporation representing the heirs of Malcolm X and his wife, Betty Shabazz, can extend a temporary restraining order banning Third World Press from publishing The Diary Malcolm X, co-edited by journalist Herb Boyd and Malcolm X’s third daughter, Ilyasah Al-Shabazz. The book was originally scheduled to be published in November 2013 and the publisher of Third World Press said the delay has put the African American-owned publishing house in financial jeopardy.
The suit, X Legacy, LLC v. Third World Press was originally filed on November 8, 2013 and alleges that Third World Press, a Chicago-based publishing company owned by poet/writer/activist/educator Haki R. Madhubuti, committed copyright infringement when it published 4,000 copies of the book without the family’s permission. TWP claims it has a valid contract to publish the work. Judge Laura Taylor Swain of the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, is presiding over the case.
However, regardless of whether the temporary restraining order stays or is lifted, Madhubuti told PW that the damage to his company has been done. “We invested close to $135,000,” he said in a phone interview. “We’ve lost now, $100,000 dollars. We missed sales for Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s, Martin Luther King’s birthday and all of Black History Month. I’m hanging by my fingernails.”
The diary, a record of Malcolm’s X’s pivotal trips to Africa and the Middle East in 1964, one year before his assassination in 1965 in New York City, contains a treasure trove of his historic encounters with numerous political leaders, activists and artists, from Gamal Nasser of Egypt, Ethiopia’s Haile Selassie to Maya Angelou and Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana.
Much like the current legal troubles surrounding Martin Luther King’s family over whether to sell his historical items, the suit reveals tensions among Malcolm X’s heirs. Co-editor Ilyasah Al-Shabazz is X’s daughter, and according to a source close to the case, the eldest daughter, Attallah, is the elder sibling heading the lawsuit against Third World Press.
Along with the obvious financial loss, Madhubuti noted that the case is devastating to him on a personal level. “The irony of all of this, is that I exist—as a poet, writer, and as a man—because of Malcolm X,” Madhubuti said emphatically. “I found my voice, as a young man, listening to Malcolm. I tried to live my life in a way he would be proud of. I met Mrs. Betty Shabazz in the seventies and we became good friends. I’ve done many things to help the family. So when I got the cease-and-desist order, it hit me right in the belly. This action has the potential of destroying Third World Press.”