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African American Institute Launches a Research Project on the Life of Malcolm X

By James Devitt

Manning Marable

Columbia's Institute for Research in African-American Studies (IRAAS) has launched a comprehensive research project on the life of Malcolm X. The project will have three primary components: the Malcolm X Papers Project, a multimedia version of The Autobiography of Malcolm X and the Malcolm X–Dr. Betty Shabazz Oral History Project.

"We are honored to have the opportunity to explore the rich historical legacy of Malcolm X," said IRAAS Director Manning Marable, a professor in history and political science. "His impact on American life is profound. This research will further document his immense contributions by cataloging the words of his family and contemporaries and by examining his words and writings."

"The Shabazz family's support has been invaluable in making these projects possible," Marable added.

The Malcolm X Papers Project will compile and organize the full range of Malcolm X's correspondence, speeches, interviews, unpublished writings and related materials. These will be published in several edited volumes and serve as a comprehensive biography of the subject.

The multimedia version of The Autobiography of Malcolm X will provide interactive electronic visual presentations of Malcolm X's writings, historical documents and speeches, news accounts, and film clippings of Malcolm X as well as interviews with historians of the period.

The Malcolm X – Dr. Betty Shabazz Oral History Project will record interviews with their surviving siblings and close relatives, prominent civil rights, labor, business and community leaders from Harlem and throughout black America. The two-year project, to be conducted in collaboration with the Columbia's Oral History Research Office, will include 200 interviews covering 400 hours. The resulting audio and video archive will serve as a resource to historians, writers and filmmakers.

"The research project is an important extension of Columbia's existing relationship with the Shabazz family and examines the impact of two icons of the African-American communities," said Larry Dais, assistant vice president for public affairs and director of community affairs.

Dais worked with Betty Shabazz, a nurse and educator, to establish the Malcolm X Medical Scholarship Program at Columbia's College of Physicians and Surgeons. The program, supported by an endowment as a living memorial to Malcolm X, is designed to further the education of African-American students interested in medical and public health problems that present higher-than-average risks to African Americans, such as hypertension, cancer, sickle cell disease and neonatal and maternal morbidity and mortality. Since its establishment in 1984, 25 scholarship recipients have graduated from the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

The civil rights and religious leader was slain on Feb. 21, 1965, at New York City's Audubon Theater. Malcolm X's last public speech took place at Barnard College on Feb. 18, 1965. In the speech, titled "The Black Revolution and its Effects on the Negro of the Western Hemisphere," Malcolm X asserted that he would "rather be dead than have somebody deprive him of his rights" and stated that "we are living in an era of revolution, and the revolt of the American Negro is part of the rebellion against the oppression and colonialism which has characterized this era."

(Petra Tuomi contributed to this article.)

Published: Feb 21, 2001
Last modified: Sep 18, 2002

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