In 1988, Manning Marable was teaching a course in African American politics at Ohio State University when he noticed numerous inconsistencies in The Autobiography of Malcolm X, the standard text about the black Muslim leader written with Alex Haley.
Image credit: Philippe Cheng
Marable, who would join the Columbia faculty five years later, resolved then to begin what he called “a modest political biography” of the charismatic figure, assassinated in 1965 in the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights by rival members of the militant Islamic sect the Nation of Islam.
The 594-page work, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, was released on April 4 and immediately acclaimed as the definitive biography of a misunderstood man who, since his death at age 39, has become a legend. Marable died just days before its publication. He suffered from sarcoidosis, an autoimmune disease, and had undergone a double lung transplant last summer.
Marable, the M. Moran Weston/Black Alumni Council Professor of African American Studies and professor of history, political science, and international and public affairs, was the “epitome of scholarly devotion and capable of such balanced, insightful judgment,” said Provost Claude M. Steele. “We are all deeply saddened by this loss and the knowledge that he will not be here to enjoy the acclaim his most recent work will surely bring.”
The tragic timing of his death, at age 60, produced an outpouring of tributes. Eric Foner, who led the search committee that brought Marable to Columbia in 1993 to establish the Institute for Research in African American Studies (IRAAS), called Marable “the model of a public intellectual.”
“His scholarship had an amazing range—from broad overviews of African American history to incisive analyses of key individuals like [W.E.B.] Du Bois and, now, Malcolm X,” said Foner, the Dewitt Clinton Professor of History. “He made the institute a place where people of every outlook and every race and ethnicity felt entirely comfortable. There was no party line—just a shared commitment to studying the black experience and relating that history to the world we live in.”…READ MORE