I would like to begin by saying that the biographer of Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention Manning Marable passed away mere days before the release of the 493 page (not including the ‘Notes, the ‘Glossary,’ the ‘Bibliography’ and the ‘Index’) text. Since its release on April 4th, there has been criticism thrown Marable’s way, mainly questioning the integrity of the research for the text.
Marable is not alive to defend himself or to answer questions from his detractors. I respect the deceased more than that. This review is not going to criticize Marable’s research — but look at what is presented.
In the ‘Prologue’ of Malcolm X (pages 9-13), Marable tells readers that his work is a re-examination of the Autobiography of Malcolm X, a scholarly breakdown and study of the book co-authored by Alex Haley. With that comes a lot of material we’ve heard before — and many we have not.
Marable’s work is based around three major ‘reinventions’ in Malcolm’s life. The first came during his transformation as Detroit Red when Malcolm dabbled in the street life which included not-so-grand of a burglary rap sheet and a controversial possibility of homosexual acts.
A point of attack by many, I will not indulge in the argument further. Those questioning with unbelief of this accusations need to put it into context before exercising their opinion.
Malcolm’s second reinvention occurred when he was an inmate at both Charleston State Prison and Norfolk Prison Colony when he joined the Nation of Islam. This is when Malcolm became ‘X’ and eventually the national minister for the NOI.
Malcolm’s reinvention concluded fully after his hajji. It was then that Malcolm began to understand the true meaning of Islam and it was then when he broke away from Elijah Muhammad and the NOI to become an emerging force in the Civil Rights movement.
Marable wrote in great detail about Malcolm’s trips abroad after his break from the NOI, his work in organizing the Muslim Mosque, Inc. (or MMI), the Organization of Afro-American Unity (or the OAAU) and recounted the circumstances that led to Malcolm’s split with the NOI.
Even in raising other controversial aspects of Malcolm’s life (such as his flawed marriage to Betty and naming the conspirators in his assassination), Marable achieved the goal he set out to do.
“A biography maps the social architecture of an individual’s life,” wrote Marable in his ‘Epilogue.’ “The biographer charts the evolution of a subject over time and the various challenges and tests that the individual endures provide insights into the person’s character.”
Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention does one other thing — shows the redemptive power of man; much like Malcolm intended the Autobiography to achieve.