Manning Marable and the Malcolm X Biography Controversy

July 8, 2011

I’ve been eagerly awaiting Marable’s bio of Malcolm X for quite some time and now that it has finally been published I must say that it’s been disappointing to read about some of the controversial or weak apsects of the book such as Marable presenting certain details about Malcolm’s life without any serious scholarly research to support it. Also, Marable’s claims about Malcolm’s political evolution and political thoughts and the overall portrayal of Malcolm as being something other than a revolutionary.

All that said, I still plan on reading the book. I suppose my initial excitement about it has withered somewhat but the book itself is a major event and I’m still looking forward to reading it even though it is not with the same sense of urgency that I had before.

On the day of Manning Marable’s death, April 1, 2011, I received an additional piece of disturbing information. A friend of mine informed me of a discussion he had just had with a Black activist-writer who, in hearing about Marable’s passing, went into what could only be described as a rant against Marable. Marable’s body was hardly cold, and this individual, who knew Marable, was castigating him to my friend, claiming that Marable was everything but a child of God. It was at that moment that I knew that Marable’s Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention (hereafter referred to as MX) would ignite a firestorm in some quarters of the Black Freedom Movement. Within days, despite the overwhelmingly positive response to the book, this firestorm emerged.

In approaching the controversies that surround MX it is important to ask two questions prior to responding directly to critics:

(1)what did Manning set out to do?

(2)did he succeed? We will take these one at a time before commenting on some of the issues raised by various critics and what lies beneath them.

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