January 12, 2003 - Newsday: Ecuador RPCV Howard Dodson is Library Director at Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

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Ecuador RPCV Howard Dodson is Library Director at Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Read and comment on this story from Newsday on Ecuador RPCV Howard Dodson who as Library Director at the New York Public Library's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, just acquired a priceless cache of letters, speeches, photographs and journals written by Malcolm X, along with his personal copy of the Quran, where much of it was generated. Read the story at:

Malcolm Returns Home*

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Malcolm Returns Home

January 12, 2003

Harlem, itself, the real Harlem at least, sighed with relief. The papers of Malcolm X had just landed at the New York Public Library's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Two of his daughters, one a striking visage of her father and the other simply striking, handed over the material the family is loaning the library for 75 years.

Snatched from the jaws of a West Coast auction house, the priceless cache of letters, speeches, photographs and journals written in Malcolm's own hand returned to the city, along with his personal copy of the Quran, where much of it was generated.

"We as a family don't mind sharing Malcolm," said Attallah Shabazz, the oldest of his six daughters, last week at a press conference at the library. "He's a real human being that I still walk with, despite the fact that [at age six], I watched him being gunned down," at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem.

Howard Dodson, the library director, said, "That the Malcolm X family honored us with the privilege and responsibility of preserving this material says a lot about the family and about the stature of the Schomburg Research Center." He was practically giddy.

An impeccably dressed, scholarly man, Dodson, a former Peace Corps worker and black history professor, once headed an Atlanta-based institute that did research on the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

"We have the strongest collection of material on the black experience in Harlem anywhere in the world," said Dodson. "To have Malcolm X's voice missing would have been a great loss. But it is now here and joined with the papers of a wide variety of historical figures, including those from the Harlem Renaissance."

"Anyplace else, Malcolm X's papers would be out of context."

The papers had a difficult journey to the Schomburg. Stored at the Mount Vernon home of the family matriarch, daughter Malikah packed and moved them to a Florida storage facility after the 1997 death of their mother, Betty Shabazz. When storage fees went unpaid, a collector took possession and placed the Malcolm X papers with the Butterfields auction house, which hoped to sell them for as much as $600,000.

The sale was stopped only by a spirited protest from scholars, spearheaded by historian Paul Lee of Detroit and backed by a legal thrust on the family's behalf by New York attorney Joseph Fleming. They helped steer the collection to the Schomburg with the proviso that it be properly preserved and made available to scholars and the public.

Harlem was a key port of call and home base for Malcolm throughout his adult life. "I had heard a lot about the 'Big Apple,'" from "musicians, merchant mariners, salesmen, chauffeurs ... hustlers," he wrote in "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" about his teenage years living in Boston and working on the New Haven railroad. "My father had described Harlem with pride, and showed us pictures of the huge parades by the Harlem followers of Marcus Garvey."

"New York was heaven to me," Malcolm wrote of his first visit in 1942. "And Harlem was Seventh Heaven."

After a stint in prison and a conversion to Islam, Malcolm returned with an entirely different view of this Gomorrah between the Hudson and East rivers. The partaker had returned as firebrand to rid the Big Apple of its sins.

"Mr. [Elijah] Muhammad appointed me to be minister of Temple Seven - in vital New York City ... [with] over a million black people," he wrote.

Whereas King worked on America's "false sense of white superiority," Malcolm X peeled away blacks' "false sense of inferiority."

"I have dared to dream that one day," Malcolm wrote, "history may even say that my voice - which disturbed the white man's smugness, and his arrogance, and his complacency - helped to save America from a grave, possibly even a fatal catastrophe." His goal and that of Dr. King's, Malcolm wrote toward the end of his life, "has always been the same, with the approaches to it as different as mine and Dr. Martin Luther King's non-violent marches ... And in the racial climate of this country today, it is anybody's guess which of the 'extremes' in approach to the black man's problems might personally meet a fatal catastrophe first - 'non-violent' Dr. King, or so-called 'violent' me."

Each leader was assassinated at age 39.

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Ecuador; Special Interests - Black History



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