The News

Who Is Gregory J. Reed?

Credit: Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

Last Friday, The New York Times published the article “Missing Malcolm X Writings, Long A Mystery, Are Sold.”  Long but fascinating story short: several pages (I believe I read somewhere 3 never-before-seen chapters) of The Autobiography of Malcolm X were sold to the Schomburg Library in New York.  The manuscripts come with comments in the margins written by Alex Haley and Malcolm X.

These chapters remained in Alex Haley’s possessions until his death in 1992.  Detroit-based lawyer Gregory Reed is reported to have purchased the chapters in an auction.  Manning Marble was able to view the manuscripts for 15 minutes while he worked on his biography of X.  Reed read from the pages publicly for the first time in 2010.  But for the most part, the pages were believed to be a myth.  A rumor.

Until last week.


There are now a few articles on the pages — what they will mean to academia, how they will impact society’s view of X; whether they will alter the perception of his autobiography.  But it is hard to find any information on Reed — the former owner who lost posession of the papers, and other African American memorabilia, in a bankruptcy case that accused him of stealing African American artifacts.  This case is said to stem from Reed’s divorce in 2000.

First there’s Reed.

Reed was Rosa Parks’ lawyer in the lawsuit against Outkast.  His profile on Crain’s Detroit Business website, last updated in March 2017, reads:

Entertainment Law Hall of Famer Gregory Reed has represented Motown legends such as David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks and the Four Tops, as well as luminaries like James Brown and the Last Poets. He negotiated a groundbreaking contract for Anita Baker as she was looking to jump from one record label to another, and he recently negotiated Aretha Franklin’s first major deal in some 15 years. He also accompanied a 17-year-old Kid Rock to New York City to help negotiate his first record contract.

These days, Reed says, he focuses primarily on intellectual property rights, helping artists figure out how to monetize their work in a post-record-store world. His practice, Gregory J. Reed & Associates, is based in Detroit. In addition to consulting clients, he is the award-winning author of 16 books. He gives seminars on intellectual property and teaches courses at Washtenaw Community College. He’s also the chairman of the Detroit Entertainment Commission, which is launching a historical “Walk to Fame,” with associated projects and events aimed at attracting tourists to the Motor City to experience its rich musical legacy.

He has a pretty impressive career.

But then there’s the foundation.

In 1996, Reed founded the Keeper of the Word Foundation “for the purpose of protecting the legacies of authors, artists and activists.” The Detroit News reports that in March 2014, the foundation sold some of its artifacts.  But the article states bank records showed the funds were then used to cover Reed’s personal expenses.

There is so much I want to know.  Who is Gregory Reed?  How did he acquire the papers? What exactly went on at the Keeper of the Word Foundation?  Is it a physical location, a museum?  Or a private repository?  How did he amass all that he has and why would he sell the items?  What are his thoughts on losing what he has?

Can someone please interview him?!


2 thoughts on “Who Is Gregory J. Reed?”

    1. I am intugued. I really wish journalists had given exposés on him as well. Did they don’t have questions? How did he come across these pages, and other artifacts? Did he have a museum/how are the artifacts he owned preserved? Did he have an archival team? Did he want to eventually donate these materials to a permanent repository?

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