Ode to Manning Marable: Provocative scholarship in life and now in death
Between the Lines
This week was supposed to be a landmark occasion in the evolution of contemporary African American thought. A new release on the life and death of an American success and race tragedy, published by Viking (Penguin Group) and written by author, columnist, scholar Manning Marable, called “Malcolm X: Life of Reinvention,” sought to refine and re-clarify the life of one of the most polarizing figures of the 20th century, El Malik Shabazz—forever to be known as simply Malcolm X.
I got my copy first thing Monday and am already halfway through the 500-page, highly researched, thoroughly annotated and citation-riddled book.
This book, for sure, is going to be one of the most provocative and controversial writings about a 20th-century freedom movement figure ever written. Even more provocative and controversial than Ralph Abernathy’s “And the Walls Came Tumbling Down,” with it’s revelations of the sexual escapades of Martin Luther King Jr. and his inner circle.
Manning delved into areas that sought to challenge the dominant radical Black manhood figure of the last century. New revelations about Malcolm’s assassination; challenges to some of Malcolm’s account of his own life and the most controversial allegation of Malcolm’s possible experimentation with homosexuality will be points of intense public debate at best, and at worse, a hostile reaction.
This book tour most certainly would have given an insight to the author’s 10 years of intense research, observations, rationalizations and motivations around these new revelations. His firsthand account would be most central in challenging our long-held ideas about Malcolm and the events that defined (and ended) his life.
But all that’s not to be. On the eve of the release of what certainly will be considered his most defining work, Marable died of complications from pneumonia at the age of 60. Certainly a tragic occasion for such a brilliant brother on the eve of his most provocative work. Marable’s writings were provocative in life. This last effort represents an appropriate post-mortem discussion that is consistent with his rich scholarship and full writing career.
I first began reading Marable as a fellow columnist in the 1990s. Whatever his column ran, somewhere in the country it was next to mine as syndicated columnists with the NNPA.
The first book of his I read, “How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America” (1983) was a provocative expose’ on how economic subjugation in America works and how the absence of capital in Black communities suppressed the development of our communities.
His book, “Black Leadership” (1998) looked at the Black leadership strata in America, and rationalized the need for them all to exist.
His weekly columns were a running commentary on the complexities of the Black diaspora and the realities of America’s racial construct.
He wasn’t writing the mundane things other columnists were writing. His writings were deeper, more intellectually combative, where you wrestled with yourself to grasp his point of view and, many times, came upon revelations that you hadn’t bothered to see.
This Malcolm book is going to cause many to wrestle with what they thought they knew about Malcolm and what they will refuse to believe about Malcolm. Still, it will be an intellectual confrontation as only Manning Marable (and a few others) can wage. The deep end of the pool is reserved for good swimmers. The deep end of the intellectual pool is reserved for good (deep) thinkers.
The fact that it took him 10 years to write the Malcolm book was a demonstration of his willingness to work through, and try to resolve, the intellectual conflicts that surrounded any discussions of the life of Malcolm X. It also highlighted the third rail—often taboo but whispered topics that gave rise to these conflicts.
Provocative thought gives rise to provocative resolution. Anything worth studying is worth discussing—even debating.
A Black president was once a provocative intellectual engagement for many of us, but Barack Obama’s presidency still represents a resolution of a once very provocative debate.
The discussion around “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention” is going to be a provocative, intense debate that challenges our previously held (read: Alex Haley) thoughts. The shame of it all is the man who caused us to “go there” won’t be there to frame the conversation—a fitting tribute to the ultimate “radical” race intellectual.
Professor Manning Marable, and his provocative scholarship, will be sorely missed. We’ve lost a true radical thinker and articulator of the African American experience in America.
Anthony Asadullah Samad, Ph.D., is a national columnist, managing director of the Urban Issues Forum and author of the upcoming book, “Real Eyez: Race, Reality and Politics in 21st Century Popular Culture.” He can be reached at www.AnthonySamad.com.
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The monument to 20th-century social change leader—and some say 20th-century prophet—the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was finally dedicated this weekend on the National Mall.
In this time of government contraction, municipal services reduction and fiscal scrutiny, Los Angeles County, the nation’s largest county, is undergoing a massive revision of its General Plan.
The General Plan represents hundreds of billions in resource allocation based on regional and local population growth forecasts that will take place over the next three decades.
Watching a President of the United States give a State of the Union address is often like watching a peacock strut, its head jutting forward with each step, and its splayed feathers shouting, “Look at me. I’m tall. I’m beautiful. I have it all. I did it all.”
The president usually lists an embellished log of accomplishments and forecasts a list of unreasonable—if not unachievable—expectations. Then Congress comes back and peacocks what it has done. The president and Congress, like the peacocks, claim they can do everything but fly.
This week is our annual King dance.
I call it the King dance because it’s the time of year when American society dances around the significance of Martin Luther King Jr. and his contributions to the evolution of American society.
It is really difficult to grapple with the compromising of the King legacy.
King was more than a day off work. King marched for social justice and economic equality. He didn’t march in parades. I never got the parade concept. What are we celebrating? The life of Martin Luther King Jr., you say.
We’ve watched the Republicans drop-kick President Obama for months now… the ones in Congress, the pundits on Fox, the wannabe candidates (Palin and Trump), and the gonna-be candidates for the Republican nomination in the 2012 election.