A researcher claims he;s discovered that a famous quote from Martin Luther King Jr. regarding Malcolm X was doctored by author Alex Haley.
Jonathan Eig, who wrote a new biography on King, has referred to the altered quote as “journalistic malpractice.” The quote in question suggests that King had denounced Malcolm X for his “fiery, demagogic oratory.” Eig claims that the quote, along with others, is fake. The quote had contributed to the belief that the two activists were at odds. The alleged denunciation was believed to have been made by King during an interview with Alex Haley for Playboy magazine in 1965.
Eig, the author of the upcoming book “King: A Life,” made the discovery while researching at Duke University’s archives. Eig, who is known for his acclaimed biographies of Muhammad Ali and Lou Gehrig, did not find a recording of Haley’s interview with King in the archives but found an unedited transcript of the entire interview. Elg shared a copy of the transcript with The Washington Post.
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In the transcript, Haley asks, “Dr. King, would you care to comment upon the articulate former Black Muslim, Malcolm X?”
King answers: “I have met Malcolm X, but circumstances didn’t enable me to talk with him for more than a minute. I totally disagree with many of his political and philosophical views as I understand them. He is very articulate, as you say. I don’t want to seem to sound as if I feel so self-righteous or absolutist that I think I have the only truth, the only way. Maybe he does have some of the answers. But I know that I have so often felt that I wished that he would talk less of violence because I don’t think that violence can solve our problem. And in his litany of expressing the despair of the Negro, without offering a positive, creative approach, I think that he falls into a rut sometimes.”
But that’s not exactly what it says in the published interview. While the top part is almost identical, the end of the quote in Playboy reads: “And in his litany of articulating the despair of the Negro without offering any positive, creative alternative, I feel that Malcolm has done himself and our people a great disservice. Fiery, demagogic oratory in the black ghettos, urging Negroes to arm themselves and prepare to engage in violence, as he has done, can reap nothing but grief.”
Some phrases appear to be taken out of context, and some seem fabricated.
Eig told The Washington Post that the modifications amount to “journalistic malpractice,” and that “King was much more open-minded about Malcolm than we’ve tended to portray him.”
“I think its historic reverberations are huge,” he said. “We’ve been teaching people for decades, for generations, that King had this harsh criticism of Malcolm X, and it’s just not true.”
Other controversies have surrounded Haley’s work, who passed away in 1992. He settled a lawsuit in 1978 for $500,000 over allegations of plagiarism related to his acclaimed book “Roots.” He was accused of plagiarizing the 1967 novel “The African.” Although he denied the allegations, he admitted that some parts of the novel “found their way” into his work, The Independent reported.
Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., left, of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and Malcolm X smile for photographers in Washington March 26, 1964. They shook hands after King announced plans for direct action protests if Southern senators filibuster against civil rights bill. Malcolm, who has broken with the Black Muslims, predicted another march on Washington if a filibuster against the civil rights bill drags on. (AP Photo/Henry Griffin)