Interview with Alex Haley

Malcolm X and Martin Luther King.


It happened that, ah, when I was working with Malcolm, interviewing Malcolm for the book, I still was working for Playboy Magazine doing the interviews, you know, or some of the interviews, and they asked me if I would, see if I could do an interview with Dr. King. And I began to make connections, you know, and to make queries and over a period of time it worked out, he agreed. Now I would periodically where it had been Malcolm saying to me, "Look I'm going to be going off for a few days," and, you know, I'd say, "Fine", 'cause it would give me a chance to get my notes and stuff together. Now with great apologies, I asked Malcolm if he would mind if I was away for a few days because, ah, I had to go see Dr. King. Now people who are being interviewed for something like a biography become rather possessive of the writer. They don't say it but they feel that that writer in effect is theirs. And Malcolm reacted very, very sharply. Ah, he didn't say anything but I could s--tell that he was offended by the idea that I would even think about leaving him to go talk to Dr. King or anybody else. But there was nothing he could say, you know, and so I went. Now Dr. King already knew that I was working on Malcolm and a thing began to develop that amused me though I would never have said to either it amused me, was that when I would get to Atlanta to interview Dr. King, he would sort of fidget around for maybe 15 or 20 minutes, ah, you know, and I'd ask him this and ask him that, and we'd do a little, little talk, you know, obligatory kind of little chit chat and everything, and it would be about 15 minutes before he would finally get around in a very indirect, oblique manner as if he just happened to think of it, "Oh by the way, what's brother Malcolm saying about me these days?" he would say. And of course I would make some fuzzy answer because that was the thing to do. Then I would go back to New York. Malcolm's personality was different. He would right BAM, right off the top he'd say, "What's he saying about me?" That was it. And I was always amused by how they reacted to each other and what was each other saying about the other. And the truth of the thing was I gathered, both men had an immense respect, each for the other, but the image that had been built up around them was that they were on opposite sides. But the truth was as I came to know it they really I believe would have dearly loved to get together and just talk out, you know, tactics, strategy and so forth. Hm hmm.