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Malcolm X: A side rarely seen

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A gifted musician, the man now known as Louis Farrakhan composed an opera titled ORGENA ("A Negro" spelled backward) staged in Boston, where I saw it during the early 1960s. It recalled the enslavement of Africans and their forced resettlement in Colonial America. Farrakhan, a talented violinist who attended the prestigious Boston Latin School and graduated from Boston English High School, seemed to view Malcolm as a big brother.

Malcolm X may have cultivated contacts with others in the mainstream American press, but his polite 1961 outreach toward the Monitor could also have been one of a kind. As expected, he spoke with wit and cutting sarcasm in responding to tough inquiries. But he could also dodge uncomfortable questions, parrying with an enigmatic "Those who know don't say. And those who say don't know."

I submitted my story on the Black Muslims, which ran a week later. An editor deleted Malcolm's harsh invective, but my first Monitor story appeared otherwise intact. That pleased me. A few years later Malcolm told me at his family's vegetarian restaurant in Harlem that my story had been fair to him and his movement. I took that as outright praise.

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