Above: Video made in 2007 by Malcolm X Memorial Foundation, narrated by Walter Cronkite and submitted to Nebraska Historical Society to nominate Malcolm X to the Nebraska Hall of Fame. Malcolm X has still not been inducted, although J. Sterling Morton, the notoriously racist founder of Arbor Day, was inducted in 1975.
During his 35 years in academia, Mr. Marable wrote and edited many books about African-American politics and history, and was one of the nation’s leading Marxist historians.
But the biography is likely to be regarded as his magnum opus. He obtained about 6,000 pages of F.B.I. files on Malcolm X through the Freedom of Information Act, as well as records from the Central Intelligence Agency, State Department and New York district attorney’s office. He also interviewed members of Malcolm X’s inner circle and security team, as well as others who were present when Malcolm X was shot to death.The book takes issue with popular and scholarly portrayals of Malcolm X and calls "The Autobiography of Malcolm X," written with Alex Haley, "fictive." That book is widely assigned in colleges.
Drawing on diaries, private correspondence and surveillance records to a much greater extent than previous biographies, his book also suggests that the New York City Police Department and the F.B.I. had advance knowledge of Malcolm X’s assassination but allowed it to happen and then deliberately bungled the investigation.
Michael Eric Dyson, the author of “Making Malcolm: The Myth and Meaning of Malcolm X” and a professor of sociology at Georgetown University, said on Thursday: “He’s done as thorough and exhaustive a job as has ever been done in piecing together the life and evolution of Malcolm X, rescuing him from both the hagiography of uncritical advocates and the demonization of undeterred critics.”
Since Malcolm X’s death, the posthumous “Autobiography,” along with “Malcolm X,” Spike Lee’s 1992 film drawn from it, has made a pop-culture hero out of the man who was born Malcolm Little. But the Marable book contradicts and complicates key elements of his life story.
Malcolm X himself contributed to many of the fictions, Mr. Marable argues, by exaggerating, glossing over or omitting important incidents in his life. These episodes include a criminal career far more modest than he claimed, an early homosexual relationship with a white businessman, his mother’s confinement in a mental hospital for nearly 25 years and secret meetings with leaders of groups as divergent as the Ku Klux Klan and the Palestine Liberation Organization.
In many ways, the published book is more Haley’s than its author’s,” Mr. Marable writes, noting that Haley, who died in 1992, was a liberal Republican and staunch integrationist who held “racial separation and religious extremism in contempt” but was “fascinated by the tortured tale of Malcolm’s personal life.”
Above: Promotional video of Malcolm X Memorial Foundation, which appears to be heavily invested in the popular biography of Malcolm X taken to task in Marable's meticulously researched new book.