Just days before Viking published his Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, Columbia University scholar Manning Marable died at age 60. The book was the culmination of years of research by the well-known black activist and founding director of Columbia’s Institute for Research in African-American Studies.
Henry Louis Gates Jr. read the book in manuscript, noting at the time:
“Malcolm X is etched in the American imagination—and the American psyche—in the particular and unyielding terms of radical and militant. Manning Marable has written the definitive biography of this outrageously misrepresented figure. He has plumbed countless historical records to bring out what is there, not what is imagined, about this dominant figure of the 20th century”
Today The Chronicle asked Gates to comment about the legacy of Marable, and his book:
“We knew that he had been gravely ill with a lung disease. In fact, Larry Bobo, Michael Dawson, and I wanted to interview him for last fall’s issue of the Du Bois Review, but he was unable to travel to Cambridge, MA. He wrote to me of his illness, of his suffering, with characteristic grace, good humor, and matter-of-factness. In an e-mail he wrote to me at that time, he indulged in a rare moment of self-regard, describing his own work, and his own drive to complete it, richly and perfectly:
‘I think that part of my own intellectual legacy is tied to the development of the journal Souls where I’ve tried to construct a current of younger, radical intellectuals writing exciting stuff on race, gender and class. The Malcolm biography is a culmination of my entire life’s work to date in the application of what I call ‘living history.’
Those two words—“to date”—break my heart today. But the Malcolm book stands as the greatest testament we could have to Manning Marable’s brilliance, his passion, and his intellectual fortitude. He devoted his magnificent career—more than most scholars do—to living what he wrote and what he thought. His commitment not only to equality of opportunity but also to the exposure of falsehood and hypocrisy was a hallmark of his pathbreaking work.
We mourn the loss of a great scholar and noble friend at the same moment that we celebrate the intellectual legacy he leaves and the inspiration he will continue to provide to generations.”