Manning Marable, the African-American author and historian whom the New York Times called "a leading scholar of black history," passed away two weeks ago on April 1, at age 60. His last book, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, was published three days later, on April 4. In this guest post, BookPage contributor Ron Wynn reviews the book, which occupied Marable for more than a decade and is now an integral part of his legacy.
Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention
By Manning Marable
Viking, April 4, 2011
Guest post by Ron Wynn
Noted historian and scholar Dr. Manning Marable spent much of his professional career examining the impact and extraordinary life of Malcolm X. Marable, who helped create Columbia University's Black Studies program in 1993, spent two decades compiling the material in his extensive (592 pages) new book Malcolm X: A Life Of Reinvention. The book is proving as controversial as its subject, especially given the amount of new information not included in any prior Malcolm X biography.
Bombshell allegations include the contention that much of esteemed author Alex Haley's The Autobiography of Malcolm X is at best erroneous and at worse bogus. He characterizes Malcolm's marriage to Betty Shabazz as troubled from the start, more an arrangement than a romantic union. Marable also disputes prevailing notions about Malcolm X's supposed transformation following a pilgrimage to Mecca. While acknowledging he abandoned the separatist rhetoric he'd previously championed as a member of the Nation of Islam, Manning contends Malcolm remained a political and social radical rather than the benevolent voice of brotherhood and understanding that's been his post-Mecca image.
The section generating the most public attention covers Malcolm's assassination. Marable maintains that the original investigation was seriously flawed, and the guilty parties have not been caught. Indeed, the book names 72-year-old Al-Mustafa Shabazz (formerly known as William Bradley) of Newark as one of the killers. Shabazz has denied any involvement and threatened legal action against the publishers. Marable even gets current Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan to speak on the record regarding whether he had any involvement in the assassination (Farrakhan vigorously denies it).
While Marable's book has its critics (most notably Betty Shabazz's two daughters as well as some other Malcolm X biographers) his research seems solid. Sadly, he died two weeks ago at 60, three days before Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention was released. Hopefully the book will stimulate not only plenty of discussion, but also ample re-investigation and scrutiny into Malcolm X’s murder.