A few days ago The New York Times reported on problems between Malcolm X’s daughters in relation to holdings by Betty Shabbaz. Shabbaz died in 1997, and the daughters have been arguing over the estate since. One of the casualties of that argument has been intellectual history. How? I’ll let the article explain:
The daughters have traded accusations of irresponsibility, mental incapacity and fiscal mismanagement of the estate, which is worth about $1.4 million. But the greater value may reside in a trove of unpublished works from Malcolm X and Dr. Shabazz.
As the dispute drags on in Westchester County Surrogate’s Court, efforts to publish the works have been thwarted by the daughters’ bickering; all must sign off on any plan to sell and release the material, which includes four journals that Malcolm X kept during trips to Africa and the Middle East in 1964, a year before his assassination.
For the uninitiated, this is precisely one of the most fertile times in Malcolm X’s intellectual life. While his autodidact period of intense prison reading gave him a heavy dose of Western cultural literacy, the African and Middle East travel period represent a growth in wisdom. Black intellectual history will benefit greatly when the daughters work out their competing interests. If it’s just about money, this might be a good time for the proverbial “silent donor” to speed the process along. – TL