Malcolm X A life of reinvention

Manning Marable, 1950-

Book - 2011

An authoritative biography of Malcolm X draws on new research to trace his life from his troubled youth through his involvement in the Nation of Islam, his activism in the world of Black Nationalism, and his assassination.

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BIOGRAPHY/X, Malcolm
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Subjects
Published
New York, N.Y. : Viking 2011.
Language
English
Physical Description
594 p., [16] p. of plates : ill., ports. ; 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN
9780670022205
0670022209
Main Author
Manning Marable, 1950- (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Malcolm X carefully shaped his own legend when he collaborated with Alex Haley on The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which became a best-seller when it was published just months after Malcolm X's assassination on February 21, 1965. Only 39 when he died, Malcolm lived multiple lives to an extent never fully appreciated until now. Marable, a prominent professor of history and African American studies and a prolific author (Living Black History, 2006), spent more than a decade painstakingly analyzing previously unavailable archival materials and gathering new information to construct the most thorough and incisive portrait yet of this complicated, controversial, and enormously influential spiritual and political leader. Electric with recovered facts and jolting revelations, Marable's dramatic and penetrating portrait is set within richly configured historical and cultural settings that illuminate long-neglected facets of the civil rights movement. Serving jail time during what might have been his college years had his trail-blazing activist father not died or, more likely, been murdered, leaving the family destitute and his mother institutionalized, Malcolm believed he found a holy mentor in Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad. Marable covers each phase of Malcolm's rapid rise in the Nation of Islam power structure, keenly assesses his galvanizing impact as a fiery and righteous champion of black nationalism, and tracks how his evolving vision and internal Nation of Islam corruption and strife led to his betrayal and murder. Here, too, are clarifying insights into the private conflicts of this brilliant, eloquent, magnetic, and zealous thinker, his outlaw years, troubled marriage, ceaseless travels, political prescience, and fatalism. The most chilling facets of the book are Marable's chronicling of the FBI's deep infiltration into the Nation of Islam and, after his ostracism, Malcolm's organizations and of possible FBI collusion in Malcolm's assassination and the failure to bring his killers to justice. Marable's paramount biography leaves readers wondering where Malcolm's spiritual and humanitarian metamorphosis might have taken him and everyone within reach of his commanding voice. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Choice Reviews

Columbia University professor Marable died shortly before the publication of his marvelous biography of Malcolm X. Since Malcolm's assassination in 1965 by followers of Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam, Malcolm has been best known through his autobiography (written with Alex Haley), published shortly after his death. Nearly a half-century later, Marable has written a compelling reinterpretation of Malcolm's life, answering questions raised by the autobiography. Insisting "Malcolm's strength was his ability to reinvent himself," Marable concludes that Malcolm was an eloquent advocate for black self-respect, a representative of the black underclass, and "the most important bridge between the American people and the more than one billion Muslims throughout the world." The biography exposes inaccuracies in earlier accounts of Malcolm's life (including the autobiography), details the split between Malcolm and Elijah Muhammad, and scrutinizes the assassination plot, raising questions such as the likelihood of an informer within Malcolm's inner circle. Malcolm was one of a handful of the most important African Americans in the 20th century, and perhaps the least understood. This book is unrivaled among interpretations of a complicated man and his monumental impact. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries. Copyright 2011 American Library Association.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

With nearly 3.5 million copies of The Autobiography of Malcolm X in print, why do we need a biography? Marable, founding director of African American studies at Columbia, drew on lots of new material, including diaries, lost chapters of the autobiography, and previously unavailable FBI files. -Important. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Embargoed until March 8, 2011. [Page 70]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by PW Annex Reviews

It is truly a shame that Marable passed away just days before this epic masterwork reached stores. This is a book whose reputation preceded itself and would have required little promotion; allegations by Marable that Malcolm both participated in a homosexual encounter with an early patron and was unfaithful to his wife Betty had already raised the ire of two of Malcolm's daughters, as well as others in the black community for whom Malcolm X has been raised to near-sainthood over the 40-odd years since his assassination. But neither claim is based on much evidence, and neither takes away from the overall impact of the work. Indeed the towering achievement of this book, which took Marable almost two decades to complete, is his ability to present Malcolm X as a flawed, struggling human being, as much at odds with his government as with himself. Marable deftly follows the same narrative path as did Haley's autobiography, but filling in the gaps and fine-tuning the exaggerations of that best-selling volume. Combing through FBI and NYPD files, gathering Nation of Islam interviews, and fleshing out Malcolm's post-NOI activities abroad, Marable succeeds spectacularly in painting a broader and more complex portrait of a man constantly in search of himself and his place in America. (Apr. 4) [Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

An authoritative biography of Malcolm X draws on new research to reveal information not contained in his autobiography, including the true story behind his assasination. By the author of Beyond Black and White: Transforming African-American Politics.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

An authoritative biography of Malcolm X draws on new research to trace his life from his troubled youth through his involvement in the Nation of Islam, his activism in the world of Black Nationalism, and his assassination.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

This biography of Malcolm X draws on new research to trace his life from his troubled youth through his involvement in the Nation of Islam, his activism in the world of Black Nationalism, and his assassination. Years in the making, it is a definitive biography of the legendary black activist. Of the great figures in twentieth-century American history perhaps none is more complex and controversial than Malcolm X. Constantly rewriting his own story, he became a criminal, a minister, a leader, and an icon, all before being felled by assassins' bullets at age thirty-nine. Through his tireless work and countless speeches he empowered hundreds of thousands of black Americans to create better lives and stronger communities while establishing the template for the self-actualized, independent African American man. In death he became a broad symbol of both resistance and reconciliation for millions around the world. Filled with new information and shocking revelations that go beyond the Autobiography of MalcolmX, this work unfolds a story of race and class in America, from the rise of Marcus Garvey and the Ku Klux Klan to the struggles of the civil rights movement in the fifties and sixties. Reaching into Malcolm's troubled youth, it traces a path from his parents' activism through his own engagement with the Nation of Islam, charting his astronomical rise in the world of Black Nationalism and culminating in the never-before-told true story of his assassination. This work captures the story of one of the mostsingular forces for social change, a man who constantly strove, in the great American tradition, to remake himself anew.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

twentieth-century American history, few are as complex, multifaceted and controversial as Malcolm X. Constantly rewriting his own story, he became a criminal, a minister, a leader, and eventually an icon, all before being felled by assassins' bullets at the age of thirty-nine. Manning Marable's new biography of Malcolm is a stunning achievement, the culmination of years of research and dogged pursuit of Malcolm's friends, enemies, and fellow travelers, many of whom have rarely or never before spoken about him on the record. Filled with startling revelations and new information from long-suppressed private and government files, it presents the most complete picture ever set down of the man Ossie Davis memorialized as "our living, black manhood."The details of Malcolm's life have long since calcified into a familiar narrative: his early years as a vagabond in Boston and New York, his conversion to Islam and subsequent rise to prominence as a militant advocate for black separatism, his acrimonious split with the Nation of Islam, and ultimately his violent death at their hands. Yet this story, told and retold to various ends by writers, historians, and film-makers, captures only a snapshot, a fraction of the man in full. Even Malcolm's Autobiography, a remarkable document that has formed the basis of what we think we know about him, is ultimately elusive, the result of his own evasions and the subtle shapings of his collaborator, Alex Haley. To truly understand Malcolm, we need to go deeper, to find the source of his voluminous rage and charisma, and to learn more about the terrible secrets of his untimely death.Malcolm X unfolds a sweeping story of the darkest days of racial unrest, from the rise of the Ku Klux Klan to the struggles of the civil rights movement. Marable reaches deep into Malcolm's troubled youth, tracing a path from the activism of his Garveyite parents through his own leadership in the Nation of Islam and examining the relationships whose energy alternately drained him and pushed him to unimagined heights. For decades, the details of Malcolm's time in Africa have been unknown; finally, they will be revealed. And here is the real story of Malcolm's long unsolved assassination, a tale of betrayal and corruption startling in its particulars and terrifying in its echoes in the present day.Malcolm X will stand as the definitive work on one of the most important figures in the history of civil rights, surpassing previous treatments in its depth and intensity and capturing with revelatory clarity a man who constantly strove, in the great American tradition, to remake himself anew.

Review by Publisher Summary 5

Selected by The New York Times Book Review as a Notable Book of the Year Years in the making-the definitive biography of the legendary black activist. Of the great figure in twentieth-century American history perhaps none is more complex and controversial than Malcolm X. Constantly rewriting his own story, he became a criminal, a minister, a leader, and an icon, all before being felled by assassins' bullets at age thirty-nine. Through his tireless work and countless speeches he empowered hundreds of thousands of black Americans to create better lives and stronger communities while establishing the template for the self-actualized, independent African American man. In death he became a broad symbol of both resistance and reconciliation for millions around the world.Manning Marable's new biography of Malcolm is a stunning achievement. Filled with new information and shocking revelations that go beyond the Autobiography, Malcolm X unfolds a sweeping story of race and class in America, from the rise of Marcus Garvey and the Ku Klux Klan to the struggles of the civil rights movement in the fifties and sixties. Reaching into Malcolm's troubled youth, it traces a path from his parents' activism through his own engagement with the Nation of Islam, charting his astronomical rise in the world of Black Nationalism and culminating in the never-before-told true story of his assassination. Malcolm X will stand as the definitive work on one of the most singular forces for social change, capturing with revelatory clarity a man who constantly strove, in the great American tradition, to remake himself anew.