Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention 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 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

Manning Marable was an American professor of public affairs, history and African American Studies at Columbia University He founded and directed the Institute for Research in African American Studies He authored several texts and was active in progressive political causes At the time of his death, he had completed a biography of human rights activist Malcolm X, entitled Malcolm X A Life of Rei

[Reading] ➿ Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention ➶ Manning Marable –
  • Hardcover
  • 608 pages
  • Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention
  • Manning Marable
  • English
  • 07 March 2019
  • 9780670022205

10 thoughts on “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention

  1. says:

    This is a dense, thorough, dour book and I found it tough going most of the time, for a variety of reasons Malcolm X is a complex and hair raising subject When we follow Malcolm through his tortured life, and it was tortured, we find ourselves face to face with some very disturbing views and statements and actions The usual trajectory laid across Malcolm s life is that after the break from the Nation of Islam, and his pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, he became an enlightened all embracing champion of humanity gone were the terrifying denunciations, and the implacable race hatred was visibly melting And this upset some people, so he was assassinated, like Gandhi, like Martin Luther King, like RFK But it really wasn t like that at all.THE NATION OF ISLAMOne thing this book has to do is provide a handy summary of the creation and development of the Nation of Islam in the USA Atheists need look no further for clear and indeed heartrending proof that religion is largely composed of human wish fulfilment The NOI was a cult which emerged in the 1930s in Detroit, Chicago and a few other Northern American cities The weird and racist theories spun by Elijah Muhammed, which formed a defining myth for the NOI, were as nasty as anything imagined by the author of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, or indeed Adolf Hitler But of course, there the comparison ends, because it s almost impossible to understand how the Jews came to provoke such pathological hatred in Hitler s and many other s minds but it s extremely easy to see why white people could be seen as 100% evil devil creatures by black people in the early to middle 20th century The psychology of this particular brand of racism is very clear Why wouldn t you hate people who hate you so much and prove it every day Quick question when is a weird little cult a religion Answer when it started two thousand years ago and was lucky enough to have great poets write its holy books Anyway, the NOI took a number of concepts and ideas from Islam and threw them in a pot and stirred them up with a whole lot of invented stuff Not too dissimilar to Scientology and Mormonism and all the other cults And this is what all religions did in their beginnings, of course All deities reside in the human breast. William Blake.The NOI did not do well in its first years, less than 1000 members by 1953 In opposition to every other black organisation, they preached non involvement in politics They were against blacks voting in elections And they were 100% segregationist They had this whole Yakub s History thing going This is where they said that a black scientist many thousands of years ago deliberately created the white race during a eugenics experiment And the white race is irredemably evil That s the way they were, that s the way they will be, they can t change They were radical and they wanted separatism, ideally in a state of their own They had only contempt for the tiny black middle class they were all Toms Everyone who wasn t a Muslim was a Tom when Martin Luther King arrived on the scene he was a Tom too, according to Elijah The NOI mindset led them down some crazy pathways Malcolm met with the KKK, as previously Marcus Garvey had done, to discover if there were any areas they could find to work together for mutual benefit The KKK and the NOI were both believers in total separation of the races, so why not Likewise, a few years later, the NOI invited the American Nazi Party to attend some of their rallies George Lincoln Rockwell, the Nazi leader, gave the NOI a ringing endorsement, saying that Elijah Mohammed had Gathered millions of the dirty, immoral, filthy mouthed, lazy and repulsive people and inspired them to the point where they are clean, sober, honest, hard working, dignified, dedicated and admirable human beings in spite of their color.This is the guy Elijah and Malcolm had discussions with and invited to their rallies in 1961 With friends like that, hmmm WORLD TOUR 1959Malcolm X was clearly the human dynamo who turned this weird little cult around, barnstorming his way through American cities, charismatic, inspirational, and flattening audiences with rhetoric which this book unfailingly describes as incendiary He got them signing on the dotted line Membership took off He was the golden star and he was thought of as the likely successor to Elijah Muhammed himself But things happened.In 1959 Malcolm toured the Middle East and Africa and realised to his astonishment that Islam is not racist but inclusive, and there are many white Muslims the Muslims he met had never heard of this Yakub s History thing andthey clearly thought the the NOI was either profoundly heretical or not Islamic at all, just an American black sect which used Islamic terms here and there Elijah Muhammed was therefore not a prophet at allThis put him in a spot What to do And then Elijah Muhammed surprise decided that it was his cult so the very strict moral rules imposed on all the Muslims did not, in point of fact, apply to him, and he therefore fathered a series of babies with the young women who came to work at his head office in Chicago The final tally was around eight or so Now, every male cult leader does this, and hmm there are no women cult leaders, so I m thinking that starting a cult is a way for some guys to meet girls Lots of them Other guys join rock bands because learning 4 chords is easier than inventing a theology Malcolm was genuinely horrified when he found out about Elijah s girls At the same time Elijah was getting really worried about Malcolm because Malcolm was getting and blatantly political Then came the chickens remark.THE CHICKENS REMARKDecember 1st, 1963, Manhattan Center, New York City Malcolm s speech is entitled God s Judgement of White America Elijah had ordered Malcolm not to mention the late JFK at all Malcolm delivered the speech and was answering questions from the crowd Eventually dallas came up and Malcolm said it was an instance of the chickens coming home to roost Well, so far, so ordinary Malcolm characterised the US government as perpetrators of huge violence against its black citizens, not to mention increasingly against Vietnamese freedom fighters So Malcolm just meant that ye shall reap what ye sow But then he added Being an old farm boy myself, chickens coming home to roost never did make me sad, they ve always made me glad. Audience laughs appreciatively This was so offensive that even Elijah Muhammed was offended, and he had no time for Kennedy For the chickens remark Malcolm got a 90 day speaking ban from Elijah, and the 90 days ended up being forever As Hank Williams put it, one word led to another, and the last word led to divorce And this was astonishing because the NOI was Malcolm s whole world, where he ate, slept, got married, got paid, it was the roof over his head, it was everything But he walked away from it.TOO MUCH PRESSUREAfter the split, which was a painful gradual process from December 63 to summer 64, Malcolm was in an extremely exposed position Malcolm stood at the very middle of a complex set of crossroads between Islam and America, Africa and America, religion and politics, pacifism and violence From 1963 to 1965 he was the very personification of these swirling torrents.What now He was reforming his views on everything at the same time as being under the full on media glare and scrutiny of the black population of America and Africa too, the new independent African nations had not only heard of Malcolm, they were fascinated by him Imagine, a black Muslim in America And what a guy So Malcolm ended up with everything on his plate He was trying to act politically as the fulcrum between black America and black Africa, and religiously as the conduit between Muslim America and orthodox Islam He was involved with an escalating war with NOI who were issuing death threats, veiled and not so veiled, on a daily basis Oh, and he had no source of income, so he had to flog himself around the country making lecture after lecture, engagement after engagement It was too much for anyone He couldn t slow down until the NOI slowed him down.Malcolm X, 11 March, 1963 There will be violence than ever this year White people will be shocked when they discover that the passive little Negro they had known turns out to be a roaring lion The whites had better understand this while there is still time.COMPLICATED OR CONFUSED OR BOTHThe contradictions in Malcolm s thought at this time are dizzying in 1964 he was the only black leader supporting right wing Republican Barry Goldwater for president At the same time the CIA were trying to figure out how to arrest him for sedition.MM sums this up beautifully He was trying to appeal to so many different constituencies He took different tones and attitudes depending on which group he was speaking to and often presented contradictory opinions only days apart That he was not caught up in thiese contradictions often owed to the fact that news travelled slowly across the country, that black politics was underreported, and that speeches were not regularly recorded he would alternately praise King and other civil rights leaders one day and ridicule them the next.LIFE AFTER DEATHMalcolm was a dazzling articulator of black anger and oppression, and not a clear political strategian or writer of manifestos That would probably have come later The organisations he created after the NOI split did not survive his death He was the very embodiment of painful black struggle He laid out the fate of black Americans for all to see You take a few million black people in chains from Africa, you dump them into a foreign land, you work them in the fields, you breed them like cattle, and then you turn around and hate them for being in the country that you brought them to Whilst at the same time you issue constitutions proclaiming your country to be the bastion of freedom for all How about that Breathtaking This is what Malcolm explained in brutal language that everyone could understand The Chickens remark and many others made Malcolm the most feared and hated black man in America in 63 and 64 But in 1987 Mayor Ed Koch renamed Lenox Avenue in Harlem Malcolm X Boulevard In 1999 the US Postal Service put Malcolm on a stamp He s almost revered now He has had a spectacular posthumous career POSTSCRIPTREADING BIOGRAPHIES IN THE AGE OF YOUTUBEIn 1959 local New york City tv produced a series of documentaries about the NOI called The Hate that hate Produced It became famous It introduced the NOI to white America And yes, it s on Youtube So you have to stop reading and watch it because now you don t have to read about this stuff , you can watch the thing itself Wow.While reading a biography of British author B S Johnson I found out he d made a tv show called Fat Man on a Beach in 1973 Yes, that s there too well, it was While reading a book on the Velvet Underground I found out that before the Velvets were formed John Cale had appeared on the panel game show I ve got a Secret Yes, that s there too.Youtube is changing the way I read non fiction.

  2. says:

    This book marks the end of the late great Dr Marable s work while hopefully simultaneously ushering in a fruitful re examining of Malcolm X s life and place in the historical record This means, of course, that it isn t quite the definitive work some people are holding it up to be, but would it really have been possible to capture something so complex and important in a single volume Probably not, and especially not when so much remains unclear and so many sources remain unavailable and, I have to say, Marable is entirely explicit about this there is an enormous amount of conjecture in this book, but it is always presented as such, and he is always clear that as new sources become available, the story will continue to evolve.I, personally, could have used of a theoretical structural analysis there was one brief discussion of Gramsci s prison experiences and the growth of organic intellectuals, but I would have loved further elaborations along that line I also hated the lack of footnotes On the other hand, this book can be and is being and will continue to be, I m sure consumed by a pretty diverse audience, so again, hopefully this will start a wider conversation that involves a variety of voices.Some of this open endedness, of course, also stems from the fact that Malcolm s life was cut short so early and in the midst of such a profound transformation This leaves the field pretty wide open for his legacy to be kind of a floating signifier, which is a problem that I think Marable himself wrestles with here was Malcolm headed towards liberal reformism, pan African socialism, or Black nationalism, or some combination of all or none of the above I don t know, neither does Marable, and nor does anyone else, although theories are pouring out of the woodwork it s that conversation at work It s pretty telling, though, that much of the furor centers on Marable s allegations of paid homosexual encounters and marital infidelity a furor currently led most publicly, of course, by a review that misreads much of this work, plays fast and loose with some factual errors of its own, and is full of venomous and, frankly, patently ridiculous personal attacks on a man who is no longer around to defend himself , neither of which makes much of a difference in the long run except for, I guess, calling Malcolm s masculinity into question as if that was a bad thing.The fact that this isn t a hagiography seems to have convinced many a few very vocal readers that this must be at attempt at some sort of character assassination, but it isn t, and the actual text of this book makes that very clear This is actually the one area where I m afraid some of the criticism is deserved there are definitely some assertions that really should have been sourced that are not, and even a few places where direct quotes are not attributed at all.

  3. says:

    The late Manning Marable was a lion of the contemporary African American history community and deservedly so It s a bit ironic and sad, then, that this work, the crowning achievement of his decades long career, was published posthumously and that he didn t live to receive the full extent of the accolades that his work, especially in this latest incarnation, deserves This book is masterful piercingly insightful, thoroughly researched and unflinchingly candid about its subject In all, it is a worthy and satisfying experience.But it s a tough read, at least for the first quarter or so Frankly, Marable s style is less consistent than I remember it from previous works in the first part of the book, so, frankly, it takes a while to get into it Once drawn in, though, the treasure trove of revelation, analysis and insight is deep For a world that largely takes Malcolm X s autobiography as definitive, this is a shock to the system as it definitely expands upon and replaces that initial seminal work.What Marable does so effectively in this work is to de mystify and humanize the icon that his subject has become, especially by differentiating between the public record to this point including as recorded in the Autobiography and the reality behind it Here we see Malcolm in all of his raw glory a young boy looking for love and family stability a young hustler whose actual malfeasance is less than he makes it out to be a young Minister in the Nation of Islam struggling to build its franchise while navigating its politics a troublingly detached husband and father an early and racist zealot evolving into a mature and inclusive prophet a doomed man intent upon pursuing his new path despite the prohibitive risks and a very human, flawed person struggling to live up to the acclaim that he had earned in his own lifetime Thanks to Marable, readers will come to appreciate and admire Malcolm but may not actually like him as much As with every icon, the reality is far complex and typically less inspiring So, too, with the enigmatic Malcolm Little cum Malik el Shabazz.There is much new ground here we learn of some homoerotic if not homosexual episodes in Malcolm s Boston based hustler phase, and of his seeming indifference to and ambivalence about his marriage while continuing to pine for an early love who joins the NOI to her ruin, and of his inconsistent views on race after his split from the NOI and his revelatory Mecca trip, and of the unfortunate series of poor decisions by Malcolm and others prior to and after his assassination, etc Unfortunately, we also are treated to assertions that seem like speculation fairly often, notable in a contrasting way because they are most often shared without context My suspicion is that the author covered so much ground that, occasionally, he omitted such source information in the interest of brevity if one can associate this concept with a book of almost 500 pages of content and 100 pages of notes and other corroborating information There are also some aspects or periods of his subject s life that the author covers in less detail than others have, which seems an unusual choice for a book that clearly strives to be comprehensive and encyclopedic.This being said, this is a grand work, a big, ambling, trove of insight and information about one of the most fascinating and compelling personages of the last century and one whose legacy seems to continue to grow almost a half century after his death As such, then, Marable has done us an incredible service, as we come to understand and appreciate Malcolm X in all of his vexing and inspiring complexity in a much greater way because of this worthy effort Too bad we can no longer thank the author personally.

  4. says:

    This is a must read for anyone that has read Malcolm s autobiography Marable s investigative work, alone, makes this book worth reading While some of his theories regarding Malcolm are far reaching, the book makes Malcolm palpable to ordinary readers If the Autobiography fascinated you then this book will be a great way to address some of the facts.

  5. says:

    Many people have read Haley s ghost written Autobiography Of Malcolm X In this new biography, which was one of the 5 finalists for the nonfiction National Book Award this year, Marable deconstructs Haley s work, identifies the fictitious erroneous content that for various reasons Malcolm X and or Haley chose to include, and tells the real story of Malcolm X s life and assassination Missing from the Haley account is the real story of Malcolm X s conversion to traditional Islam and his rejection of the teachings of the Nation Of Islam, of which he was the 2nd ranking minister in the US Malcolm X rejected important NOI teachings, including that Louis Fard, an African American who died shortly before the founding of the NOI, was in fact God and that NOI founder Elijah Muhammed was the final prophet of God contradicting Islamic teaching that the original Mohammed was the final prophet The NOI then expelled Malcolm X, and he was replaced by Louis Farrakhan By rejecting NOI doctrine, it appears Malcolm X signed his own death warrant, and the assassination attempts began.Having lived for many years in Chicago just a couple blocks from Louis Farrakhan who preached to NOI followers just a couple days before the assassination that Malcolm X deserved to die it was pretty creepy reading at some points Especially realizing that those nicely dressed skinny young men in black suits, white shirts dark bow ties who hung around on the sidewalk in front of Farrakhan s house whom we saw all the time were the Fruit Of Islam in Marable s book The FOI were essentially the Nation Of Islam s enforcers, the lead pipe guys who ensured compliance with the behavioral rules of the NOI and the teachings of Elijah Muhammed the NOI founder nationwide leader prior to Farrakhan According to Marable, it was FOI enforcers from Newark who showed up in Harlem gunned down Malcolm X, even though the actual killers aren t the ones who went to jail for the assassination.Interesting reading It took Marable than 20 years to write this book, and he died about a week before it was published It s unfortunate he didn t live to see its publication, or the favorable reviews it s gotten, or learn of the awards it s been nominated for.

  6. says:

    When I was in the military, I read every book I could get my hands on about Malcolm X I would have loved to have been a helper for Mr Marable as he gathered information to write this book It is now the definitive biography of Malcolm A true masterpiece of biography Marable even makes a point of critiquing the Alex Haley book the Autobiography of Malcolm X He does not mess with words when he points out the weaknesses of that book He tries not to make the same mistakes There is so much effort in this book to get out as much information as possible Marable is not afraid to search for the truth, or as close to the truth as he can arrive at, no matter where it takes him For example, he is not afraid to point out the racism, misogyny, anti semitism, and corruption of the Nation of Islam If there is a flaw, it may be the effort to point out the final changes that Malcolm went through at the end of his life He was still a flawed man One story I found fascinating was that of Cassius Clay Muhammad Ali In the first Clay Liston fight, it was Malcolm who stood up for Clay Elijah Muhammad backed Liston In the fifth round of that fight, a chemical got on the gloves of Liston It then got in Clay s eyes and blinded him for the entire round He managed to defend himself until the round ended In the sixth, he knocked out Liston How close he came to losing The Nation of Islam realized they messed up Elijah Muhammad gave Clay the name Muhammad Ali From that point on, they pulled Ali into their group Although Ali would later regret his words, he denied Malcolm X It seems that Ali did not have the courage to do battle with the powerful Elijah Muhammad It is also pretty clear, but not certain, that it was the Nation of Islam that was behind the assassination of Malcolm X.

  7. says:

    In my opinion, the author was trying hard to taint Malcolm X s image by trying to expose his dark past, eg claiming he had relations with other men, which his daughter, Ilyasah Shabazz, questioned the accuracy of these accounts If you want to gain an understanding of this remarkable honoured man s life, work and influences, read books that are reliable such as his auto biography and books that encompass his speeches.

  8. says:

    I spent 11 days with this book Half of those days, I ve dealt with some kind of ebola zika bird flu strep throat virus So it s just been me, my bed, Kleenex, and these nearly 600 pages of the life of Malcolm X Noted African American history professor and scholar, Manning Marable claimed these pages as his life s work After teaching The Autobiography of Malcolm X and noticing inconsistencies within the book, he decided to piece together Malcolm s life from diary entries, interviews, FBI and police surveillance, meeting notes, letters, and a host of other primary sources More than a decade of research, and this is the result Released to a lot of controversy, due to salacious facts about Malcolm s sexuality in his early years, his erratic and drama filled marriage to Dr Betty Shabazz, and discrediting much of The Autobiography as fictive in order to inspire the downtrodden and further Alex Haley s republican ideals it was also released to a lot of praise thanks to the meticulous and engaging examination of his life Marable died from pneumonia three days before the book was released, leaving it impossible for him to defend this work But even still, this book is a master biography, having won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 2012, and numerous other accolades.I have so many feelings to unpack about who Malcolm could ve been, what he would ve been for Black people everywhere, had he not been gunned down A Life of Reinvention is one of the best titles one can give the man, as he dealt with numerous transformations and was on his way to becoming a Pan African leader, uniting Black people across nations The bridges he built within Morocco, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt and the Middle East on behalf of the African American struggle during the last few months of his life were amazing He was also preparing to bring the plight of Black Americans before the United Nations, framing our struggle as human rights violations on an international stage on par with South African apartheid There is so much to talk about within this book Marcus Garvey s early influence which opened the door for the NOI to flourish, the history of the NOI along with the brazen violent tactics used to keep order and protect their leader, Malcolm s very questionable marriage, Malcolm s relationship with other civil rights leaders and organizations, and the broken loyalties that led to his death I wish I d read this with a class led by a Malcolmite scholar because unpacking it by myself is a daunting task I especially want to research about Malcolm s views on women which seemed very problematic, and his connection to Maya Angelou, which was both exciting and disappointing Despite that, this book is brilliant, heartbreaking, and life changing I m thankful that I was finally able to dedicate time to learning about my favorite Black activist.

  9. says:

    Malcolm X was a complex and extraordinary man Reading Manning Marable s biography took me longer to read than most books and I found myself having to take breaks and read other things during the process It wasn t that I didn t like the book but that it was so heavy with information and detail about the evolution of this man that I couldn t absorb it without pausing Many reviews on these pages go into much detail about the book so I will not What I found remarkable was learning about Malcolm s place on the world stage Had he chosen to stay abroad and remained alive I believe he would have made a big difference in the Pan African Movement He was though a tragic character in the true Shakespearean sense and the strengths and weaknesses that made him so remarkable marked him for his assassination In many ways this book deserves 5 stars but I missed not having footnotes and the notes provided at the end of the book though scholarly were of little help unless you find yourself at the Malcolm X library A big question for me was the fact that Malcolm preferred Goldwater over Johnson in the 1964 election even though 96% of the black vote was for Johnson and there was scant information in the text and absent in the notes to explain why.I leave this book with profound respect for Malcolm X the man and the question What if this man had lived just a little longer

  10. says:

    This book requires imagination You cannot make assumptions that you think might be true Everywhere you turn there is the opportunity for both failure and excess This book does great justice in restoring Malcolm X s reputation His previous biographers were aggressive in their prose and put their own thoughts into the issues raised Mannining Marable has written a very readable book You do not have to be inspired to read this book At the same time you will be inspired Malcolm X should be on every American s mind as we move forward in the 21st century All of the thoughts of disunity and failure, whether racial or religiously motivated, only serve to describe America today We are little than our benefactors in the race to retirement or some other financial love Life is not lived like that We are not that We are people with jobs and families that we love That is what is true about this biography even when we disagree with the subject matter.

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