Historical Documents Belonging to Malcolm X’s Friend Found in Storage Unit

Posted on Feb 1 2012 - 3:54pm by John Stevens

It is almost inevitable that self storage businesses will have renters who are delinquent in paying their rental fees. Facility managers diligently work with these people so they won’t fall behind in their payments. For various reasons renters will default on their payments and the items are auctioned off. Storage managers and owners wish that this wouldn’t happen – but at times, they do.

Recently, renters defaulted on a rental unit in a Connecticut storage facility and the items were sold to a buyer who had no idea what he was purchasing. As he sorted through the items, he realized that they might be of historical value. Many of the documents referenced Malcolm X so the buyer contacted the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation based in Omaha, Nebraska.

The Malcolm X Memorial Foundation together with the Black History 101 Mobile Museum (based in Detroit) purchased the documents from the original buyer. They declined to identify the original buyer and the amount that they paid for the 1,000 documents.

These documents and other artifacts belonged to Malcolm “Shorty” Jarvis. Shorty was in prison at the same time Malcolm X was. They became friends and remained close for 20 years. Part of the items included a 72-page scrapbook that Jarvis maintained until after Malcolm X’s assassination in 1965.

There were three documents that were extremely interesting and valuable. One was the document of the 1946 sentencing of Malcolm X to prison. Malcolm along with three others, were sentenced to prison for larceny in a home in Arlington, New Jersey. They stole assorted jewelry, two perfume bottles, a rug, a pair of gloves, flashlights, and 20 pounds of sugar. This court paperwork has never been seen before by researchers or historians.

The other documents of interest was the letter of pardon 30 years later from the state of Massachusetts that exonerates Jarvis of his conviction and sentence.

Malcolm X became famous as the chief spokesman for the Nation of Islam. Wallace Fard Muhammad founded this movement in Detroit in the 1930s. Malcolm advocated the Nation’s stand which was racial separatism as a means to self-actualization. They referred to white people as “devils” and urged blacks to claim civil rights “by any means necessary.”

Other items of special interest included a published and an unpublished book manuscript by Jaravis. These detailed the relationship between Jarvis and Malcolm X. The public will get to view the collection on May 19, which is Malcolm X’s birthday.

This is one of the times when an auction of items in a storage unit has held significant historical importance.

Sources Used:

“Malcolm X artifacts unearthed: Police docs and more found among belongings of ‘Shorty’ Jarvis.” The Grio; 1 February 2012.

“Story of Malcolm X friend revealed in documents accidentally discovered in storage unit.” Washington Post; 31 January, 2012.

“Uncovered Malcolm X Documents Expand Story of ‘2 Malcolms.'” Huffpost Detroit; 31 January 2012