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Malcolm X 'Diary' taken to court

Nayaba Arinde | 12/2/2013, 11:15 a.m.
African Diaspora in the UK install plaque for Malcolm X

“That is his opinion. That is why we are in court. One man says one thing, another man says another. That is why we have this adversarial action,” Johnson said regarding McMilan's claim that proper permission was not gained.

Johnson told the AmNews that by the time he heard from the lawyers, “We had already had the book printed; we were already in the process.”

In court on Friday, Third World Press attorney Matthew Brinkerhoff said that the book came to be after one of Malcolm X's six daughters signed a contract in March, leading Third World Press to believe that, that gave them publishing rights.

McMillan retorted that despite the court order, the book was still on sale, adding that there was "no indication Third World Press has any intention to stop what they're doing."

The book was set to be launched with grand fanfare on Nov.15, but Brinkerhoff said the publisher canceled the launch event and removed the book from sale in compliance with Swain's order.

He told the court, "As far as I know, there are no books out there being sold."

Annotations and commentary in the “Diary of Malcolm X” were edited by prolific author and journalist Boyd and Ilyasah Al-Shabazz, one of Malcolm's six daughters. Therein lies the crux of the issue. Even though Al-Shabazz had signed onto the project, a prior agreement meant that all the sisters in X Legacy LLC also had to sign on—and they did not.

So McMillan is arguing that point, while Third World Press states that it signed their agreement in “good faith.”

“The next court hearing is Jan. 31– and nothing can come out,” said McMillan. “Despite our injunction, the book had been on sale on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online book publishers. X Legacy LLC shut them down.”

Any further sales, the attorney said, would lead to “substantial copyright infringement.”

Saying that he was under a gag order, Boyd, who is also an AmNews reporter, said he could not talk about the case.

On the book jacket, Boyd says, “The heart of the book is Malcolm's impressions, his personal observations on the people he meets and the circumstances he encounters.” Al-Shabazz notes, “From the pages of his diary, we hear his voice—distilled and pure, devoid of outside interference, manipulation or intent. With his diary, the entire world can assess the value, contribution and magnitude of Malcolm X.”

Tut-tutting sadly, Internet observers and others state that it is a pity that this legal brouhaha has erupted over what is a magnificent legacy and a vital selection of papers that the world does need to see and learn from.

In the press release in which Third World Press announces the “landmark publication of 'The Diary of Malcolm X.,'” they cite the “copious notes” made by Malcolm X, aka El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, on his trips to Africa and the Middle East in 1964.

“One of the most astonishing revelations we learn from 'The Diary' is the possible CIA agent who was shadowing Malcolm in Africa and the Middle East,” said Herb Boyd. “In his autobiography, Malcolm believed he had discovered who that agent was, but a close reading of 'The Diary' discloses an even more surprising man who may have been the spook on Malcolm’s trail.”