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Cecil Layne
gelatin silver print
Sheet: 8 1/16 × 10 inches (20.5 × 25.4 cm)
Credit Line
Bequest of Stan Flagg.
Accession Number
Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska. Malcolm X was an African-American Muslim minister and human rights activist. To his admirers, he was a courageous advocate for the rights of blacks, a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its crimes against black Americans; detractors accused him of preaching racism and violence. He has been called one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history. These two primary-source documents provide insight into Malcolm X’s final year of life.

The photograph, taken by Cecil Layne, a renowned African American photographer and President of the Negro Press Photographers' Association, documents Malcolm X on Harlem-based WLIB radio station panel with George Goodman, George Schuyler, and Allan Morrison, dated July 4, 1964. The letter provides insight into the relationship and collaboration between Malcolm X and veteran writer and journalist Alex Haley, who worked together for nearly two years to ultimately publish The Autobiography of Malcolm X in 1964. This particular letter foreshadows the growing fear of his forthcoming assassination, which occurred less than one year later on February 21, 1965.