Auctions | January 14, 2015

Malcolm X Letter Discussing Boston’s Jazz Scene Goes to Auction


BOSTON, MA—A rare handwritten letter by Malcolm X will be featured at a live auction event by Boston, MA based RR Auction this month. 

The letter signed “As Salaam Alaikum, your Brother, Malcolm X,” three pages on both sides, and is dated March 9, 1950.

A letter to a fellow member of the Nation of Islam, written while serving time in Norfolk, Massachusetts, after being convicted of larceny and breaking and entering. In part (spelling and grammar retained): “Enslaved by lies and fairy tales concocted and perpetuated by the devils—we fell in ‘love’ with these myths—kept their by unseen chains—but today the Almighty God, Allah, is Teaching His Children this Blessed Truth of Islam—and—driving the darkness from our minds—cleansing our polluted souls...and strengthening our weak hearts—We have been in darkness so very long—stumbling blindly along—wondering why this— and why that—knowing something was wrong— but not knowing what— No wonder we do some of the things we do—no wonder we drink, dope and all sorts of things to soothe our soul—no wonder we so continuously have sought the lures of night life to create some sort of peace within ourselves—no wonder we have so longingly turned so often to music for its comforting effects. 

Music, Brother, is ours—it is us—and like us it is always here—surrounding us—like the infinite particles that make up Life, it cannot be seen— but can only be felt—Like Life!!! No, it is not created—but like the never-dying Soul—eternally permeates the atmosphere with its Presence—ever-waiting for its Master—the Lordly Musician—the Wielder of Souls—to come and give it a Temple—mould it into a Song. Music without the Musician is like Life without Allah...both being in need of the house—a home—The Temple — the Complete Song and its Creator Sonny & Milt Jackson played together up in Flint, Mich. 

In ’45 just after Sonny left ‘B.’ All of them know me well, but few know me under my own name. Is ‘B’ a Muslim? I heard Dig was. Please tell me the fellows who are. There are many who belong to the Ahmadiyya Movement, but I want to know how many and which ones that are in show Biz belong to ours, under Mr. Elijah Mohammed. Do you know Al ‘Soul’ Hayse, from Detroit; Hamp’s former trombonist? He was my ace. There were many that were tight with me, but that life has been so far from my mind these past two years, many I’ve forgotten. My ace girl was Dina Washington. She’s still the greatest.   

I hear some of Sonny’s records. When I was out he was on alto, but I see he is now giving tenor a fit. I think his home is in Saginaw. Today I fear the temptations of that life and its memories, so I steer as far clear from the subject as possible unless I know the fellows are brothers. There are many that I really should write I ask you the ones who are for the whole life at present, is lived within the letters I write and receive—for the beautiful words from my beloved Brothers and Sisters create an atmosphere for me that no devil can destroy.” 

Following a tragic upbringing in Lansing Michigan, Malcolm dropped out of school in 1940 and moved to Boston to live with his half-sister Ella in Roxbury, MA. The 16-year-old soon befriends ‘Shorty,’ a well-connected aspiring saxophonist who got him a job at the Roseland State Ballroom, on Mass Ave in Boston, MA. 

Malcolm later wrote of the mesmerizing city in his biography ‘Neon lights, nightclubs, poolhalls, bars, the cars.  Jukeboxes blared Erskine Hawkins, Duke Ellington, Cootie Williams, dozens of others.’ Along the way—at the Ballroom or his haunt the Savoy Jazz Cafe— Malcolm met some of the famous musicians he references in this letter, Sonny Stitt, Milt Jackson, and the legendary Dinah Washington, his “ace.” 

Little’s path abruptly changed in 1946, when the 20-year-old received a ten-year prison sentence for burglary. He was soon introduced Islam, and in 1948 renounced his past, promising to never again engage in destructive behavior. X’s clear longing for his previous life on the Boston music scene present in this letter is palpable. 

“The letter provides great insight into his early life and is a rare early example of his adopted “Malcolm X” name— making this a significant and immensely desirable piece,” said Bobby Livingston, Executive Vice President at RR Auction.

Among other historic museum quality pieces:

Spectacular Martin Luther King 1964 Man of the Year cover inscribed to notable journalist Chuck Stone.

A special live auction event will take place on January 22 at the Omni Parker House, in Boston, MA, and will feature nearly 150 items. More details can be found online at