January 25, 2022

Syracuse University In Tug-of-War Over Historic Malcolm X Letter

From the The Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY):

Sitting in his hotel room in Saudi Arabia in April 1964, civil rights activist Malcolm X penned a letter on hotel stationery to his friend and co-author, Alex Haley.


Now, Haley’s son wants that letter back. A rare documents dealer working with William Haley says the letter is worth $250,000 and has demanded SU turn it over. A lawyer for William Haley says said it rightfully belongs to Haley and his two sisters.

The family of the late Alex Haley has asked Syracuse University to return the letter written to the author by Malcolm X.

“There was not a direct transfer of any ownership to (SU) of that letter, nor did Grove have ownership of the letter,” said Gregory Reed, a Detroit attorney who also collects Malcolm X documents.

SU officials disagree. They say the letter was given to the university in 1969 under a legal agreement with Grove Press owner Barney Rosset, and the university has no plans to give it up. The letter is used frequently by students and faculty, and will be a centerpiece exhibit in May 2013 on the Grove Press collection.

And Barney Rosset, who gave the letter and other papers of Grove Press to SU, was one of the leading free-speech figures of the era. As head of Grove, Rosset published books then considered unpublishable – including the then-salacious “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” and the non-traditional works of playwright Samuel Beckett and Beat poet Allen Ginsberg — and was hauled to court several times for it.

Read the Complete Article

See Also: Finding Aid for Barney Rosset Collection (Syracuse University Library)

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.