The Life's Work and Early Death of Manning Marable

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The Life's Work and Early Death of Manning Marable

Sarah L. Courteau

A scholar dies days before his landmark biography of Malcolm X is published.

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When Manning Marable died at the age of 60 on April 1, he was three days shy of seeing his biography of Malcolm X published. The book portrays the slain civil rights figure as a flawed but admirable leader. Marable had long battled lung disease, and had undergone a double lung transplant last year.

Marable—a professor of African-American studies, history, political science, and public affairs at Columbia University—was the author of nearly 20 books and more than 275 scholarly articles, but he considered Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention  his life’s work. The book was the result of two decades of exhaustive research that led Marable to plumb archives, government documents, and other sources to present as full a picture as he could of his subject. Marable sought, in part, to correct and complete the hagiographic portrait of Malcolm X in journalist Alex Haley’s as-told-to Autobiography, a foundational text for generations of students and the basis of a film adaptation by Spike Lee. And Marable spent considerable attention on the circumstances of Malcolm X’s death, for which he believed that justice had yet to be served.

In the new issue of the WQ, Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer David Garrow praises Marable’s 600-page achievement, concluding that “this superbly perceptive and resolutely honest book will long endure as a definitive treatment of Malcolm’s life.”