2011 National Book Award Finalist,

Manning Marable

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention

Viking Press, an imprint of Penguin Group USA

Manning MarableABOUT THE BOOK

Of the figures who tower over twentieth-century American history, few are as complex, multifaceted, and controversial as Malcolm X. Constantly rewriting his own story, he became a criminal, a minister, a leader, and eventually an icon, all before being felled by assassins’ bullets at the age of thirty-nine.

Manning Marable’s biography of Malcolm is a stunning achievement, the culmination of years of research and dogged pursuit of Malcolm’s friends, enemies, and fellow travelers, many of whom have rarely or never before spoken about him on the record. Filled with startling revelations and new information from long-suppressed private and government files, it presents the most complete picture ever set down of the man Ossie Davis memorialized as “our living, black manhood.”


Manning Marable was M. Moran Weston and Black Alumni Council Professor of African American Studies and Public Affairs at Columbia University. He was founding director of African American Studies from 1993 to 2003, and from 2002 until his death earlier this year he directed Columbia’s Center for Contemporary Black History. Among his books are W.E.B. Du Bois: Black Radical Democrat, The Great Wells of Democracy: The Meaning of Race in American Life, and The Crisis of Color and Democracy.

Author photo by Philippe Cheng


From MALCOLM X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
Permission: Viking Press

Still bleeding and disoriented, Johnson X Hinton was dumped out into the street outside the city’s felony courthouse. Malcolm’s men subsequently drove him to Harlem’s Sydenham Hospital, where doctors estimated that he had a fifty-fifty chance of surviving. The next day, a crowd of more than four hundred Muslims and Harlemites gathered for a vigil at a small park facing the hospital; NOI members from Boston, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Hartford, and other cities had driven in to take part. In a private meeting with a delegation of police administrators, Malcolm made the Nation’s position clear: “We do not look for trouble… we do not carry knives or guns. But we are also taught that when one finds something that is worthwhile getting into trouble about, he should be ready to die, then and there, for that particular thing.” As James Hicks observed, “Though they were stern in their protest they were as orderly as a battalion of Marines.”

All three men who had been arrested were subsequently acquitted. Johnson X Hinton and the Muslims filed a successful lawsuit against the NYPD, receiving more than seventy thousand dollars, the largest police brutality judgment that a New York jury had ever awarded. But the incident had also set in motion the forces culminating in Malcolm’s inevitable rupture with the Nation of Islam. Elijah Muhammad could maintain his personal authority only by forcing his followers away from the outside world; Malcolm knew that the Nation’s future growth depended on its being immersed in the black community’s struggles of daily existence. His evangelism had expanded the NOI’s membership, giving it greater impact, but it was also forcing him to address the problems of non-Muslim black Americans in new ways. Eventually, he would have to choose: whether to remain loyal to Elijah Muhammad, or to be “on the side of my people.”