In African mythological culture it is believed that the seventh child will emerge as a leader of his people. Malcolm X was his father's seventh child. Seventh Child: A Family Memoir of Malcolm X
is a valuable contribution to our knowledge of a great and controversial figure. No other book about Malcolm X—and there have been more than forty, in eight different languages—provides such enlightenment on the man, except, of course, his own autobiography. Told by loving sister Ella Little Collins, who knew Malcolm X better than anyone else, and her son, Rodnell P. Collins, to whom Malcolm X was a much-loved and admired uncle and mentor, Seventh Child
adds immeasurably to our knowledge of the man.
Sister Ella's tough love for and tenacious loyalty to her brother permeate the entire book. It was she who took him into her home after his father was lynched and his mother was institutionalized following a nervous breakdown. It was she who went into the streets of Boston looking for him when he was a rebellious teenager. It was she who arranged for his transfer to a progressive prison where he began to develop his intellectual skills. It was she who paid for his trip to the holy city of Mecca. It was to her that he confided his growing concerns about the rampant corruption in the Nation of Islam headquarters in Chicago. And it was with her that he spent several hours early on the day he was assassinated, discussing such matters as bringing the United States before the World Court for violating human rights.
This is the most important book on Malcolm X since publication of the Autobiography.
For some twenty-five years before her death, in August 1986, Malcolm's sitter Ella worked on a memoir of her brother and of the Little family through the generations. When her first cousin, educator Oscar V. Little, began researching the Little family genealogy, she enthusiastically encouraged him, and was elated when his diligence paid off with the discovery of their great-grandparents, Tony and Clarrie, and their great-great grandfather Ajar, who was brought from West Africa to enslavement in South Carolina in the 1800s, "I just wish Malcolm was around to hear this history," she told Rodnell, whose earliest memory of his uncle "was sitting on his knee while Ma visited him in prison."
When illness incapacitated his mother in the mid-1980s, Rodnell inherited the project. Ella Little Collins passed all the information letters, photographs, other documents, and her memories on to him. "Once I got involved on that level," he noted, "I became as committed to it as Ma had been all those years. My only regret is that she died before the project was completed."
Rodnell P. Collins, a computer systems analyst, currently lives in Boston with his wife and two children in the house in which Malcolm X lived as a teenager.
A. Peter Bailey, who assisted Alvin Ailey in writing his biography, Revelations, was pallbearer at Malcolm X's funeral. He currently lives in Washington, D.C.