Mumia Abu Jamal – Manning’s Malcolm…And Ours
For Master Historian, Prof. Manning Marable of Columbia University, a book on the life of Malcolm X could only be a challenge that would daunt the faint-hearted.
Dr. Marable, founder of nearly half a dozen Black studies programs at colleges and universities across the country, would meet that challenge which demanded decades of study, reflection and writing to produce Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention (Viking: 2011).
Published at nearly 600 pages in length, it will stand as his masterwork, for Marable died, at 61, mere days before its release.
It captures the tone and tenor of the time, the quiescent ’50’s, the rolling ’60’s, and the equally turbulent, never resting spirit of Malcolm X (years before his (‘X’), as a hustler, prisoner, convert, minister, activist, exile, revolutionary organizer and martyr.
Marable questions large parts of the classical texts drawn from the Autobiography of Malcolm X, (which, in retrospect, appears more biography than autobiography), and seems more the result of Haley’s craft than the subject, as shown by much of the Internal correspondence between Haley and his editors, shaping the form, tone and contact of the book.
Marable’s book, however, is not free of critique. It opines that both Malcolm and Dr. Betty Shabazz (his wife) had sexual dalliances that may stain their memory. Moreover, he suggests Malcolm may’ve been involved in a homosexual affair in his youth.
These seem more speculation, rumor and innuendo than proof, however.
Finally, Dr. Marable treats the COINTELPRO-type files and FBI interest and actions regarding Black groups as givens, normalized and to be expected instead of the unconstitutional and indeed, criminal race police that they functioned as, against Malcolm, the Nation of Islam, and even the pacifist movement led by Dr. Martin L. King Jr. (whom the FBI regarded as ‘the most dangerous man in America!’). Nor does he note how laughably unreliable many of these files were.
There is much here that is new; Malcolm’s teenage fascination with white women (and their real names and identities); police tracking of Malcolm since the mid ’50’s; the treacherous internal dynamics of the Nation of Islam; and Malcolm’s courting of the Muslim Brotherhood (of Egypt).
There is too, the tragedy of its writer who, if in better health and perhaps with more time, could’ve devoted more of his energies and prodigious intellect to polish a work of such length and complexity.
That said, the work, Malcolm X shines because of the brilliance not only of its author, but of its principal subject -Malcolm X. For his life was one constant reinvention in an age when the nation itself — and Black Americans –were in the process of transformation. America was trying to shed its apartheid past, and Negroes were becoming Black people, and African-Americans — and some (like Malcolm) citizens of an emerging (largely non- white) international community.
Dr. Marable has made, virtually with his last breath, a bold and mammoth addition to our storehouse of knowledge.
Of that, we, and he, should be proud, for by painting Malcolm thusly, he makes him more human — more like us.