Thursday, July 2, 2015

E-Black Studies: Abdul Alkalimat's Brother Malcolm

Today I want to highlight the Brother Malcolm website created by Professor Abdul Alkalimat, Professor Emeritus of African American and Library and Information Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

 Brother Malcolm website

Launched in 1998, this site remains the premier scholarly source for Malcolm X information. I have used the site over many years, and Brother Malcolm was crucial to my work on the Alex Haley Malcolm X papers. In addition, Alkalimat launched and continues to run eBlack Studies, a foundational digital project in black studies.

Brother Malcolm contains a huge amount of information on Malcolm X, from pictures, family information, timelines of writings and speeches, a bibliography, guides to Malcolm X papers in special collections, Alex Haley's estate auction catalog, study guides and much more. Some of this material is not available elsewhere, all of it is extremely valuable. For example, I was able to use the Alex Haley Estate Auction catalog to decode where Alex Haley's "The Malcolm X I Knew" was published. Students also appreciated the site's link to Malcolm X's FBI papers. Without these materials, my work on Malcolm X would remain incomplete.

Alkalimat's site reveals the complexities and importance of Malcolm X's life. I find this letter from Malcolm X to his sister, Ella, while he was in prison in 1949 particularly moving:

Formed from activist politics, the site is staunchly open source and emphasizes a solidarity of democracy. Alkalimat writes,

"Our philosophy is based on three concepts: cyber democracy, collective intelligence, and information freedom.

  • Cyber democracy: maximize potential participation (connectivity) 
  • Collective intelligence: include all voices (content) 
  • Information freedom: free distribution of information (consumption)" (

This philosophy means that teacher training and student materials are included on the site.

The site also includes lists of related dissertations.

While Alkalimat is, to my mind, one of our founding digital humanists, his work has not received appropriate attention from the larger dh community. He was featured at the University of Maryland's 2008 Digital Diasporas conference, but few scholars outside of black studies digital work know of his important role in digital humanities.  I hope that those within the larger dh community come to recognize how important Alkalimat and his work are to dh and that we celebrate his ongoing work.

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