‘The Diary of Malcolm X’: Champion of Pan-African liberation in his own words

by Patrick Delices

Today, on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of our “Black shining prince,” as Ossie Davis described Malcolm X in his eulogy, we highlight the 2013 book, “The Diary of Malcolm X,” by award-winning journalist Herb Boyd and Malcolm’s daughter, human rights activist and author Ilyasah Shabazz. They had planned to release the book on Nov. 10, 2013, the 50th anniversary of “Message to the Grassroots,” an electrifying and commanding speech delivered by Malcolm X in 1963 at King Solomon Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan, the hometown of Herb Boyd, but a lawsuit temporarily banned publication.

Malcolm-X-at-Queens-Court-1964-by-Herman-Hiller-World-Telegram-web, ‘The Diary of Malcolm X’: Champion of Pan-African liberation in his own words, Culture Currents
Malcolm X, El Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, visited Queens Court in 1964. – Photo: Herman Hiller, World Telegram

The diary is considered by scholars to be a document of incalculable historical importance. Shabazz, who also authored “Growing Up X: A Memoir by the Daughter of Malcolm X,” observes, “It’s really beautiful that we get to see Malcolm in his own voice – without scholars, historians or observers saying what he was thinking or what he was doing or what he meant.” She added: “We get to read his personal diary.”

Boyd notes that the diary entries were compiled over two trips Malcolm made to Africa and the Middle East in 1964. Boyd also notes Malcolm’s discipline: He did not miss a single day in recording his thoughts during that period.

“This is Malcolm uninterrupted,” Boyd says, “without any kind of editorial interference.”

“Malcolm needs to speak and have his own words heard,” Boyd adds. “It is probably the most critical thing that he left behind.”

Dr. Haki Madhubuti, whose company, Third World Press, is the book’s publisher, says: “It’s one of the most important books that we’ve published.”

“Where did you find the diary?” asked Amy Goodman when she and co-host Juan González interviewed Herb Boyd on Democracy Now! Jan. 20. “The diary is at the Schomburg (Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem),” responded Boyd.

The-Diary-of-Malcolm-X-cover, ‘The Diary of Malcolm X’: Champion of Pan-African liberation in his own words, Culture Currents “It’s been there since the materials, his memorabilia, arrived there after going up into auction in Butterfield and Butterfield, and the family sued, (won) a court injunction, stopped the sale of that material online, particularly with eBay. So they stopped it. The stuff reverted back to the family, came back to the Schomburg in two huge crates. I mean, Malcolm was a pack rat. He kept everything.”

“The family had lapsed on payments down in Florida,” Boyd explained. A man named James Calhoun – you know, when you go to auction, you buy stuff like a pig in a poke. You don’t know exactly what’s inside of it. He got home and discovered he had a treasure trove.

“He then got in touch with Butterfield and Butterfield, and that’s when the whole process began in which the court had to intervene, stop the sale of that stuff. It came back to the family. The daughters were at the Schomburg, had a press conference there. The two huge crates had been returned there. A 75-year contract was signed with the Schomburg. It took them, Amy, five years before that stuff was catalogued, laminated, what have you, and prepared for scholars to do their research, as Manning Marable did.”

Continuing, Boyd said: “But at the time, I was the only reporter, along with a photographer, who was invited over when they opened the crates up. And that’s when I saw the diary for the first time. And in the back of my mind – you know, I did several stories at that time for the Amsterdam News – but always in the back of my mind, I said, ‘One of these days, I’m going to read that diary.’

Malcolm-X-Betty-Shabazz-daughters, ‘The Diary of Malcolm X’: Champion of Pan-African liberation in his own words, Culture Currents
Some of the photos published in “The Diary” are not widely known. This one shows Malcolm pointing toward his wife, Betty Shabazz, with his first four daughters. His youngest daughters, twins, were born after his death. Ilyasah is the third eldest.

“And it finally came to pass, you know, and I had a chance to see it. And I thought this is something that the world needed to see. And then I got on with Ilyasah, and she agreed that maybe let’s push forward on the project.”

“People have heard of ‘The Autobiography of Malcolm X,’” said Goodman. “Explain ‘The Diary of Malcolm X.’”

“Well,” said Boyd, “I think the diary fills in a lot of the questions that are raised with the autobiography. I think it complements it very well and at the same time expands and elaborates on where Malcolm’s head was at that time. People often ask, ‘Well, where would Malcolm be right now?’ I think we get a good indication where he was then and where he would be right now.”

In “The Diary of Malcolm X,” Boyd and Shabazz provide the reader with a poignant memory of Malcolm X, one of the greatest leaders and freedom fighters in African-American history, who unabashedly championed the global cause of sovereignty for Africans worldwide. The book contains superb research.

Unlike other publications regarding Malcolm X, in “The Diary of Malcolm X,” Boyd and Shabazz remind us of Malcolm’s intellectualism, socio-political propositions, economic strategy and global view without yielding to the temptation to idealize him. We also learn more about the caring father and loving husband who balanced these responsibilities with the demands of the struggle.

Maya-Angelou-Nigerian-High-Commissioner-Alhadji-Isa-Wali-Helen-Darden-Malcolm-X-in-Nigeria-1964, ‘The Diary of Malcolm X’: Champion of Pan-African liberation in his own words, Culture Currents
In Nigeria in 1964 are Maya Angelou, Nigerian High Commissioner Alhadji Isa Wali, Helen Darden and Malcolm X.

In the book, the reader learns about Malcolm X in his own words and the thoughts he recorded then. No one needs to humanize Malcolm, as he does so himself in “The Diary,” which offers, without distortion from pundits, an analysis of Malcolm’s worldview, his vision, benevolence and humanity.

In the Democracy Now! interview, when Juan González asked, “And the diary covers what period of his life?” Boyd responded: “The last year and a half of his life, which was probably the most exciting period. Of course, he’s ever-evolving. But you find that 1964, he spent 24 weeks, you know, six months, traveling in Africa and the Middle East. That’s what that diary is all about, copious notes he kept day to day.

“To some degree, it represents a kind of an appointment book. But in a larger sense, you know, he’s writing for posterity. You know, Malcolm even told his agent at that time, Paul Reynolds, that ‘One of these days, I’d like to publish this.’ Some of that is lifted and put into the autobiography. But still, there’s so many revelations that come from out of the diary that people who read this are just going to be absolutely astonished and astounded.

Wole-Soyinka-on-Malcolm-X, ‘The Diary of Malcolm X’: Champion of Pan-African liberation in his own words, Culture Currents “You know, what’s going on in his mind at that time? You remember, he’s literally flying by the seat of his pants. He’s not like Secretary Kerry or Secretary Clinton, you know, with a whole entourage, a retinue of people with him, feeding him all kinds of, you know, background material, talking points. He’s doing this on his own.

“So, you know, just to travel to foreign countries, and the climate, the diet, the language, all of that stuff is just impacting him all at once. So, he was sick a lot in these travels, but nonetheless, you know, (there’s) the kind of fortitude and determination that he represented in so many instances.

“Right after his house was firebombed, for example – people don’t know that it happened early in the morning. By 9:00, Malcolm is on a plane coming to Detroit, living up to his commitment to speak there at the Ford Auditorium later that day.

“So, I mean, that’s where I come into his life,” Boyd said. “When I recognized the man who could do that, although I had met Malcolm when I was 20 years of age back in nineteen hundred da-da-da, I met him then and was a part of that whole group of people around him in the Nation of Islam. And when he left the Nation, I left, too, although I was in the military at that point. But, you know, Malcolm has been in my life since 1958.”

Fidel-Castro-Malcolm-X-in-Harlems-Theresa-Hotel-092460, ‘The Diary of Malcolm X’: Champion of Pan-African liberation in his own words, Culture Currents
Fidel Castro and Malcolm X share a laugh as they meet in Harlem’s Theresa Hotel on Sept. 24, 1960.

Numerous dignitaries in Africa warned Malcolm X that his life was in danger once he returned to the United States. He had started to advocate for a strong connection with the motherland, a point he made strongly in “You Can’t Hate The Roots of a Tree Without Hating the Tree” in order to harness the global strength of all Africans based on the philosophy of pan-Africanism. Even while African leaders offered Malcolm X an opportunity to take refuge in the motherland, he typically observed, “My life will be a small price to pay for such a vision” – a vision of sovereignty and protective status for African-Americans “by any means necessary.”

In response to González’ question, “What are some of the nuggets that stood out to you when you were putting together the diary?” Boyd said: “One of the main revelations for me was that I think we nailed who the CIA agent was who was shadowing Malcolm at that time. Even in his autobiography, remember that he speculated and kind of suspected that he was being shadowed and under surveillance by the FBI.

“But, of course, when he goes abroad, the CIA picks it up. But he was looking like maybe some white man was doing it, but it turns out it was a Black man who was a CIA agent. And it’s all circumstantial at this point, because he’s popping up, this one man that we follow.”

Muhammad-Ali-Malcom-X-c-Bob-Gomel-web, ‘The Diary of Malcolm X’: Champion of Pan-African liberation in his own words, Culture Currents
“Malcolm was my brother, friend, mentor and often my confidant. He was a remarkable man whose thirst for truth and righteousness for all people set him on a path that often isolated him from others. But he knew it was the path that he must walk, regardless if he found himself walking alone. Malcolm inspired me with his eloquence and wisdom. He still inspires me. Sometimes the right road isn’t the easy road. It takes courage, conviction and personal sacrifice to stand up for truth and justice. Malcolm was that kind of man.” – Muhammad Ali

“We followed his trail all the way to FRELIMO, the liberation movement in Mozambique,” Boyd continued. “And he had been kicked out of that organization because they suspected he was a foreign agent. So that’s kind of like a red flag went up right then, you know? …

“Malcolm met with him on several occasions in four different countries. And you’d think that he would be like, ‘Mm, this guy keeps popping up.’ However, he kind of foisted himself off as being a journalist.”

Boyd and Shabazz weave their own editorial commentaries into the book, which contains Malcolm’s distinctive handwritten entries – over 200 pages describing his socio-political experience overseas along with his interpretation of global events.

From the first entry, on April 15, 1964, to his last one on Nov. 17, 1964, Malcolm’s commitment to the cause of African American advancement, his leadership and his humanity is evident. “The Diary of Malcolm X” also repudiates recent revisionist scholarship based on speculations and innuendos about Malcolm.

Malcolm-X-in-Cairo-1964, ‘The Diary of Malcolm X’: Champion of Pan-African liberation in his own words, Culture Currents
Malcolm X in Cairo 1964

Malcolm was ahead of his time in comprehending the immense potential of engaging African heads of state of newly decolonized nations. He was now able to bring forth to the United Nations the human rights violations against Black people in the United States and the hypocrisy about global democracy preached by Washington. Today, Africa is the world’s fastest growing economy and emerging market in a world governed by material wealth and resources – not idealism.

Malcolm makes it clear in his diary that he had the intellectual capacity to understand that material resources, not idealism, build a sovereign nation and the institutions to elevate people’s conditions. Indeed this was a constant theme in many speeches, including “The Ballot or the Bullet.”

“The Diary of Malcolm X” succinctly elucidates that a sovereign pan-African state should be the material vision of African-Americans where resources are properly harnessed and give rise to an African-centered consciousness. This material vision as expressed by Malcolm X integrates a system analysis of the economic, political and cultural reality of the global African community.

Malcolm understood that economics determined the infrastructure of a sovereign people and nation, whereas politics and culture determined the superstructure of a sovereign people and nation.

Accordingly, in a sovereign pan-African state, African centered ideas along with the socio-economic and political disposition of Africans worldwide will be fortified by investing globally in the development and sustainability of Black-owned institutions, where the protective status of Blacks is not only mandated but secured.

If African-Americans are serious about becoming a sovereign people with their own nation, this book is a must read.

Obviously, what makes “The Diary of Malcolm X” extremely valuable is simply Malcolm’s own words and thoughts – prophetic, priceless and worldly.

Professor Patrick Delices is a political analyst and commentator for the Black Star News and the author of “The Digital Economy,” Journal of International Affairs. For nearly a decade, Professor Delices has taught Africana Studies at Hunter College. He also served as a research fellow for the late Pulitzer Prize recipient, Dr. Manning Marable, at Columbia University. He can be reached on Facebook. This story first appeared Oct. 17, 2013, in Black Star News and has been updated and expanded by Bay View staff.

Excerpt from ‘The Ballot or the Bullet,’ a speech delivered by Malcolm X in Detroit a year before his assassination, broadcast on Democracy Now! Feb. 20

Just as it took nationalism to move – to remove colonialism from Asia and Africa, it’ll take Black nationalism today to remove colonialism from the backs and the minds of 22 million Afro-Americans here in this country.

Malcolm-X-pic-quote, ‘The Diary of Malcolm X’: Champion of Pan-African liberation in his own words, Culture Currents Looks like it might be the year of the ballot or the bullet. Why does it look like it might be the year of the ballot or the bullet? Because Negroes have listened to the trickery and the lies and the false promises of the white man now for too long. And they’re fed up.

They’ve become disenchanted. They’ve become disillusioned. They’ve become dissatisfied, and all of this has built up frustrations in the Black community that makes the Black community throughout America today more explosive than all of the atomic bombs the Russians can ever invent.

Whenever you got a racial powder keg sitting in your lap, you’re in more trouble than if you had an atomic powder keg sitting in your lap. When a racial powder keg goes off, it doesn’t care who it knocks out the way.

Understand this: It’s dangerous, because what can the white man use now to fool us after he put down that March on Washington? And you see all through that now. He tricked you, had you marching down to Washington.

Yes, had you marching back and forth between the feet of a dead man named Lincoln and another dead man named George Washington, singing “We Shall Overcome.” He made a chump out of you. He made a fool out of you. He made you think you were going somewhere, and you end up going nowhere but between Lincoln and Washington.

So today, our people are disillusioned. They’ve become disenchanted. They’ve become dissatisfied, and in their frustrations they want action.

Democracy Now! is broadcast weekdays on over 1,300 radio and TV stations, the largest public media collaboration in the country, and at www.democracynow.org, where archived shows, transcripts, podcasts and more can also be found. This segment was broadcast Friday, Feb. 20, 2015.