“I have just completed my pilgrimage (Hajj) here to the Holy City of Mecca…which is absolutely forbidden for non-Muslims to even rest their eyes upon,” Malcolm X wrote in 1964 after completing his trip to Mecca. This is a portion of a letter that was recently recovered in a storage bin and is now being auctioned for $1.25 million.
The six-page handwritten letter appears on stationery with Arabic script and photos of historic sites, indicating Malcolm may have written it during his stay in the Middle East. He goes on to say that he doubts whether “10 American citizens have visited Meccas, and I do believe that I might be the first American-born Negro to make the actual Hajj itself.”
While this point can be debated, there is little doubt about Malcolm’s plea to white Americans, who if they accepted Islam, he wrote, it would go a long way toward ending the “racism now plaguing America like an incurable cancer, all thinking Americans should be more respective to Islam as an already proved solution to the race problem.”
In many respects, the letter is very much like the more popularly known one in which Malcolm expressed revelations about Islam’s universality and seeing people of many colors and ethnicities worshipping together in Mecca.
A comparison of the handwriting on the letter with other examples of Malcolm’s penmanship is consistent, though that’s not to say it could not be a forgery. Questions about the validity of the letter arises when it was reportedly to be possessed by Gary Zimet and his company Moments in Time. Several years ago Zimet was in the news seeking to sell a letter written by Malcolm to Elijah Muhammad in 1959, in which Malcolm is expressing some very personal domestic affairs between him and his wife, Betty Shabazz.
In a phone interview with Zimet Monday morning, he said the letter was given to him by the owner, whose identity he could not reveal. “That’s confidential,” he said. He did explain that there was no addressee on the letter. His acquisition of it is very similar to how he possessed the previous one. Also, he believed that the ownership will not be contested by Malcolm’s family since they may own the right to the words but not the letter. In effect, you may own the book on your shelf, but not the content.
Zimet explained the difference between Malcolm’s letter of 1959 and the current one for sale. “That was a personal letter from Malcolm to Mr. Muhammad in 1959 and is not as valuable as this one,” Zimet explained. “This is a remarkable letter and he discusses racism in America and what can be done to end it.”
He said he had already received several inquiries for the letter.
When asked who determined the price of the letter, he said he did. “I’ve been in this business for 30 years, so I know exactly how to price it.”