Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention
By Manning Marable
Manning Marable’s Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention
was released on April 4, 2011 by Viking Press and was recently awarded the Pulitzer Prize for History. Tragically, Marable died at the age of 60 just days before the release date. He was Professor of History and Director of the Institute for African American Studies at Columbia University. The life of Malcolm Little, the remarkable man the world knew as Malcolm X, was the focus of Marable’s life’s work. Marable’s depiction of Malcolm X is more complex than the one known to readers of the famous Autobiography of Malcolm X
by Alex Haley. Marable argues that the autobiography by Haley was oversimplified and that it covered over a number of deep flaws in the man and those who surrounded him.
Marable claims that Malcolm X’s violent criminal past is inflated in the autobiography and that the truth portrays Malcolm as a petty thief. Marable even suggests that Malcolm was involved in homosexual relationships during these years of thievery. The assassination of Malcolm X on February 21, 1965 receives the most attention, and Marable suggests that the investigation into his murder should be reopened. The thing I found most amazing about the investigation is that a dance party scheduled in the same ball room where the assassination took place was not canceled. The hall was simply cleaned up and prepared, and the dance went on as planned.
This book is a must-read for everyone – especially those interested in understanding the role race played in American history of the 20th century and how race continues to affect the American experience today. Christians, especially Christians of European ancestry, need to read Marable’s work, for it is in white churches where the issues and problems of race and racism continue to be downplayed or ignored, and it is important that such a stance be reversed.
Reviewed by Dr. Jason A. Bembry, Professor of Old Testament.