Books: Malcolm X by Manning Marable

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In Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention (Viking, 2011), Manning Marable (1950–2011) presents what appears to be a thorough and meticulous account of his subject, the assassinated black Moslem leader known as Malcolm X. That Marable, who unfortunately died days before the book’s publication, brings impressive credentials to his work—he was a professor of African American studies, history and public affairs at Columbia University, served as founding director of Columbia’s Black History center and is the author of 15 books—underscores the question of why the press and their favored black intellectuals all but ignored this volume, which was published last year with hardly any coverage.

Marable, who had taught The Autobiography of Malcolm X, written with, and arguably authored by, Alex Haley (Roots) during Marable’s seminar at Ohio State, had the audacity to approach his topic with real curiosity. So he sheds new light on the facts surrounding Malcolm X’s unsolved assassination, which he hints may have involved the FBI. He further enlightens readers about Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, whom he states advocated Malcolm X’s death. In one of Marable’s more trivial assertions, which has sadly tapped anti-gay prejudice among blacks, he tells us in a brief passage that his subject had been a hustler who probably had sex with men.

There is much to learn here about Malcolm X, whose views are likely to shock many on the left and the right, tracing his origins as an East Coast vagabond through his conversion to Islam, the religion of submission to God, and his advocacy of racial segregation—so-called black separatism—his early alliances with Moslems in Africa and his affiliation with, and split from, the Nation of Islam, a group which continues to exist in the United States with connections to Islamists. It’s a fascinating story, based on interviews with Farrakhan and Malcolm X’s letters and diaries, tracing 20th century American politics and culture, and it is impossible not to make crucial connections to today’s news and events. Not only does one gain insights into the man born Malcolm Little and how he went from birth in Omaha to being arrested in Detroit and assassinated in 1965 by fellow Moslems at the Harlem place where Duke Ellington and Count Basie had played, one will become better acquainted with the sordid story of post-slavery black Americans, once known as Negroes, from Frederick Douglass to Marcus Garvey to Martin Luther King, Jr. (whom Malcolm X sought to differentiate himself from) to today’s entrenched black intellectuals.

We learn that Alex Haley was a liberal Republican. That the Islamic terrorist-supporting Rev. Farrakhan was raised as an Episcopalian and discovered Islam as a Calypso singer known as Louis Eugene Walcott in Chicago at a nightclub called the Blue Angel. That on the night when thousands of federal troops were occupying the University of Mississippi to ensure the enrollment of a Negro named James Meredith, Malcolm X was on talk radio denouncing interracial marriage. But above all in this apparently straightforward and honest biography by an intellectual who expresses gratitude for Malcolm X, one comes away with a spine-chilling report on the insidious spread of collectivism—and an inextricable black American link to Islamism—that haunts us still.

That the man who mainstreamed anti-American Moslems in America was downed by Moslems in America is but one of several twists that make more sense in reading Manning Marable’s Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, an ambitious book with a glossary, notes, photographs, index and bibliography.

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Movie Review: Malcolm X

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