The Biographer Who Shattered Malcolm X Myths

Manning Marable

Manning Marable, my academic mentor and a well-respected scholar, died just three days before his decades-long project, "Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention," was released on Monday. It is an exhaustively researched biography that directly challenges the standard narratives surrounding Malcolm X.

What Marable's book offers is social and political context to the historical events around Malcolm's life, a detailed account of his three trips to the Middle East and Africa, an explosive re-examination of his assassination and a re-conceptualization of Malcolm's break from the Nation of Islam.

Marable was a prolific writer, a Columbia University professor, founding director of the Institute of Research in African American Studies and director of the Center for Contemporary Black History. He was also my intellectual inspiration.

In fall 2006, he took a chance on this Malcolm X-obsessed Syrian-American Muslim woman by asking me to join his Malcolm X Project as a research assistant. Sifting through archives, Arabic language newspapers, articles and books, I spent two years examining Malcolm X's relationship to Islamic, Arab and African leaders for the project. I credit my foundation of historical scholarship to Marable.