The Diary of Malcolm X

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There is no greater serenity of mind than when one can shut the hectic noise and pace of the materialistic outside world, & seek inner peace within oneself.~Malcolm X


In 1964 civil rights leader Malcolm X embarked on a spiritual journey traveling to Mecca in search of the true religion of Islam. During his journey Malcolm X documented his thoughts, activities, and meetings across Africa and the Middle East. The Shabazz family with the help of scholar Herb Boyd has compiled his writings in The Diary of Malcolm X.  

Malcolm X goal was to publish his travel journal as second book, detailing his interpersonal developments of his life. Due to his untimely death the diary never made it to publication. This historical artifact would remain hidden among Malcolm’s possessions in a storage bin in Florida. An incident occurred at the storage facility where the activist belongings were auctioned off. A man by the James Calhoun acquired the storage bins. Realizing the treasure trove of what he had just discovered, he contacted Butterfield auction house in San Francisco, California. Intending to make a profit, the diary and other possessions were put on for sale on e-bay. The family’s attorney Joseph Fleming succeeds in getting a court injunction to block the auction. Fortunately the family was able to regain their father’s keepsakes, documents, books, newspapers, and films.  The Shabazz family established a 75 year agreement with Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, a world leading cultural institution devoted to the research, preservation, and exhibition of materials focused on African American, African Diaspora, and African experiences. Malcolm X diary can be found in the archives of the center available for scholars and researchers.

There are many books on Malcolm X, one most notably being the Autobiography of Malcolm X. Although Alex Haley interviewed Malcolm X collaborating on his autobiography, it is written from authors perspective and interpretation based off the conversations. The diary is Malcolm’s own voice and words, giving readers insight into his well-being and thought leadership. Like many books his diary did not undergo revisions and extensive editorial editing.  The editors of the book Herb Boyd and Ilyasah Al-Shabazz left the content in the diary in its original form, only adding annotations and commentary. In reading the diary you will find missing words that were not legible to read, but they intended not to fill in the words interpreting what he was trying to convey. If you are looking for gossip if Malcolm revealed secret things about the nation of Islam or if he had a side chick, this is not the book for you. In reading the travel journal  it is very detailed oriented about his trips to Africa that began in April to the end of May and later from July to November of 1964. On a day-by-day account he writes the date, time, place, and people he met along his journey.

The diary highlights El-Hajj’s pilgrimage to Mecca. Shell shocked by what he witnessed in seeing every nation, form of culture, every color of people represented in Mecca. The spirit of brotherhood he so desperately longed for in the United States he experienced everywhere he ventured as people showed him great hospitality. No color barriers had to be broken or equal rights fought for as he quoted the “Hajj equalizes all.” As one reads about his spiritual journey seeing the transformation take place as he partakes in the traditional culture and custom norms during his pilgrimage. The journey of the pilgrimage to Mecca began by Malcolm having to perform a series of exercises. The first exercise was circling a holy building called the Kaaba seven times. Second, he drank from the well of Zem Zem. Third he ran seven times between two hills called Mount Al-Safa and Mount Al-Marwah. Lastly, he recited special prayers in an old cities named Mina and Mount Arafat. The pilgrimage gave the Muslim minster clarity about the solutions needed to solve issues back in the states. His notes read ” Our success in America will involve two circles: Black Nationalism & Islam. It will take BN to make our people conscious of doing for self and then Islam will provide the spiritual guidance. Black nationalism will link us to Africa  & Islam will link up spiritually to Africa, Arabia, and Asia. Essentially I assume he was aligning a strategy built upon a spiritual foundation as method to advance the culture forward. Getting a true understanding of Islam helped to center Malcolm.

On his birthday May 19, 1964 his journal entry reads:

My birthday. I took some pictures in the Bazaar just in time to leave for the airport. At the airport I gave several autographed pictures to Ibrahim(Mahi) friends. They were all very hospitable. He stayed with me right up to the plane(gave me gifts for my family).

I arrived in Algeria about 3:30 and took a cab to the Hotel Aletti(First to the George, which I felt was too far from the center of the city) I walked around the city(ate dinner) until it was very late. Very few people could speak English. I called the Ghanaian ambassador’s house and was given another number to call by his maid.


As I read his words, to me it feels like his diary was an escape. It was the one place where he could be authentic and transparent without having to worry about his words being misinterpreted or spun by the media. His pages of thoughts and reflections really humanizes him. The notes show how he was going through somethings. As intelligent as he is, you see areas where he needed to grow in. He mentions the fact of not being able to speak the language therefore he could not understand or answer back. He expressed how he felt deaf and dumb, but was grateful for people who were helping him.

As they say never judge a book by its cover. Open up The Diary of Malcolm X to truly gain insights into his religion and methodologies that shaped his ideas and legacy. While one does not have to agree or be aligned with Malcolm X school of thought,  seek to understand by any means necessary. The diary may inspire you to search within yourself for your own spiritual enlightenment.  Many decades after his passing,  Malcolm X continues to be a significant influence in the United States and around the world.




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