Skip to:Content
Cover image for Malcolm X : a life of reinvention
Malcolm X : a life of reinvention
Publication Information:
New York : Viking, 2011.
Physical Description:
594 p., [16] p. of plates : ill. ; 25 cm.
Life beyond the legend -- "Up, you mighty race" : 1925-1941 -- The legend of Detroit Red : 1941-January 1946 -- Becoming "X" : January 1946-August 1952 -- "They don't come like the minister" : August 1952-May 1957 -- "Brother, a minister has to be married" : May 1957-March 1959 -- "The hate that hate produced" : March 1959-January 1961 -- "As sure as God made green apples" : January 1961-May 1962 -- From prayer to protest : May 1962-March 1963 -- "He was developing too fast" : April-November 1963 -- "The chickens coming home to roost" : December 1, 1963-March 12, 1964 -- An epiphany in the Hajj : March 12-May 21, 1964 -- "Do something about Malcolm X" : May 21-July 11, 1964 -- "In the struggle for dignity" : July 11-November 24, 1964 -- "Such a man is worthy of death" : November 24, 1964-February 14, 1965 -- Death comes on time : February 14-February 21, 1965 -- Life after death -- Reflections on a revolutionary vision.
Personal Subject:
Draws on new research to trace the life of Malcolm X from his troubled youth through his involvement in the Nation of Islam, his activism in the world of Black Nationalism, and his assassination.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book 921 X 0 1
Book 921 X 1 1
Book 921 X 1 2
Book 921 X 1 1
Book 921 X 1 1

On Order



Selected by The New York Times Book Review as a Notable Book of the Year Years in the making-the definitive biography of the legendary black activist.

Of the great figure in twentieth-century American history perhaps none is more complex and controversial than Malcolm X. Constantly rewriting his own story, he became a criminal, a minister, a leader, and an icon, all before being felled by assassins' bullets at age thirty-nine. Through his tireless work and countless speeches he empowered hundreds of thousands of black Americans to create better lives and stronger communities while establishing the template for the self-actualized, independent African American man. In death he became a broad symbol of both resistance and reconciliation for millions around the world.

Manning Marable's new biography of Malcolm is a stunning achievement. Filled with new information and shocking revelations that go beyond the Autobiography, Malcolm X unfolds a sweeping story of race and class in America, from the rise of Marcus Garvey and the Ku Klux Klan to the struggles of the civil rights movement in the fifties and sixties. Reaching into Malcolm's troubled youth, it traces a path from his parents' activism through his own engagement with the Nation of Islam, charting his astronomical rise in the world of Black Nationalism and culminating in the never-before-told true story of his assassination. Malcolm X will stand as the definitive work on one of the most singular forces for social change, capturing with revelatory clarity a man who constantly strove, in the great American tradition, to remake himself anew.

Author Notes

Manning Marable was born in Dayton, Ohio on May 13, 1950. In 1968, he served as the local black newspaper's correspondent and marched along with thousands of others during the funeral procession for Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He received a bachelor's degree from Earlham College in Indiana, a master's degree from the University of Wisconsin and a doctorate from the University of Maryland. He wrote around 20 books during his lifetime including How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America, The Great Wells of Democracy: The Meaning of Race in American Life, Speaking Truth to Power: Essays on Race, Resistance and Radicalism, and Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention. He was a professor of African American studies, history, political science and public affairs at Columbia University. He died from complications of pneumonia on April 1, 2011 at the age of 60.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 7

Library Journal Review

Marable (W.E.B. Du Bois: Black Radical Democrat), who was a distinguished professor of African American studies, history, and public affairs at Columbia University, died at age 60, days before this book's publication. This frequently engrossing biography gives a full account of the "lives" of Malcolm X (1925-65), including his years as a street hustler in Boston and Harlem, his time in prison where voracious reading led to his transformation into a the devout follower of Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam (NOI), his rise as the NOI's chief minister, and, finally, his split from Elijah Muhammad and his acceptance of all people who would work for African American human and economic rights. The book does bog down in its details of meetings and events led by Malcolm X, but readers will be gripped by the stories of how he refused to be intimidated by the possibility (even inevitability) of his assassination. Marable also writes of the trial in which all three of Malcolm X's alleged assassins were found guilty, although two were likely innocent. Verdict Marable's access to recently declassified FBI documents, the NOI archives, and parts of Malcolm X's diary not previously available contributes to this significant work, which will be consulted by scholars and will interest readers moved by the iconic Autobiography of Malcolm X. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/25/10.]-Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

One of the United States' most renowned scholars of African-American history, Marable had been working for years on his mammoth revisionist biography of Malcolm X, fighting off illness before dying the week of the book's publication. His book offers a notably divergent perspective on the black nationalist leader from his own autobiography, co-written by Alex Haley, downplaying his criminal experiences and emphasizing his pattern of intellectual transformation. G. Valmont Thomas coolly summons the appropriate scholarly tone for this compelling portrait of a leader never entirely settled within himself. His low, sleek voice, composed and assured, is entirely apt for this adeptly written, copiously researched biography. A Viking hardcover. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Malcolm X carefully shaped his own legend when he collaborated with Alex Haley on The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which became a best-seller when it was published just months after Malcolm X's assassination on February 21, 1965. Only 39 when he died, Malcolm lived multiple lives to an extent never fully appreciated until now. Marable, a prominent professor of history and African American studies and a prolific author (Living Black History, 2006), spent more than a decade painstakingly analyzing previously unavailable archival materials and gathering new information to construct the most thorough and incisive portrait yet of this complicated, controversial, and enormously influential spiritual and political leader. Electric with recovered facts and jolting revelations, Marable's dramatic and penetrating portrait is set within richly configured historical and cultural settings that illuminate long-neglected facets of the civil rights movement. Serving jail time during what might have been his college years had his trail-blazing activist father not died or, more likely, been murdered, leaving the family destitute and his mother institutionalized, Malcolm believed he found a holy mentor in Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad. Marable covers each phase of Malcolm's rapid rise in the Nation of Islam power structure, keenly assesses his galvanizing impact as a fiery and righteous champion of black nationalism, and tracks how his evolving vision and internal Nation of Islam corruption and strife led to his betrayal and murder. Here, too, are clarifying insights into the private conflicts of this brilliant, eloquent, magnetic, and zealous thinker, his outlaw years, troubled marriage, ceaseless travels, political prescience, and fatalism. The most chilling facets of the book are Marable's chronicling of the FBI's deep infiltration into the Nation of Islam and, after his ostracism, Malcolm's organizations and of possible FBI collusion in Malcolm's assassination and the failure to bring his killers to justice. Marable's paramount biography leaves readers wondering where Malcolm's spiritual and humanitarian metamorphosis might have taken him and everyone within reach of his commanding voice.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

"HIS aura was too bright," the poet Maya Angelou said of her first meeting with Malcolm X. "His masculine force affected me physically. A hot desert storm eddied around him and rushed to me, making my skin contract, and my pores slam shut." Malcolm X had that same sort of bone-deep, visceral impact on America. He got under everyone's skin - either in the sense that he seeped into your pores and transformed you the way the great love of your life does, or in the sense that he annoyed or scared the living hell out of you. There is no middle ground with Malcolm. If you hate him or distrust him, you should consider giving him another try: officers assigned to monitor the wiretaps on his phones sometimes ended up being flipped, because close listening led them to believe that his programs and philosophies were sensible and righteous and that law enforcement agencies should not have been working against him at all. And while Malcolm's ideas changed America, his life journey has captivated us even more. He went from a petty criminal and drug user to a longterm prisoner to an influential minister to a separatist political activist to a humanist to a martyr. Throughout his life he continually grew upward, unafraid to challenge or refute what he believed, giving hope that any of us can rise above even our deepest convictions to become better people. The prime document that has kept Malcolm's story alive over the decades since his assassination in 1965 is "The Autobiography of Malcolm X." That book has changed countless lives and made Malcolm a central influence on generations of black men who admire his force, his courage, his brilliance, and his way of merging the protean trickster and the bold intellectual activist and the inspiring preacher. But all autobiographies are, in part, lies. They rely on memory, which is notoriously fallible, and are shaped by self-image. They don't really tell us who you are but whom you want the world to see you as. Did Malcolm X consciously lie in his autobiography? In some cases, yes - he wanted us to believe he was a bigger criminal than he actually was, so that his growth into a Nation of Islam figure would seem a much more dramatic change. He also wanted us to think it was a friend who did sexual things with another man and not Malcolm himself. Sometimes he just left out details that didn't fit his political agenda or the literary agenda of his co-author, Alex Haley. Some of those choices were right for what they were creating. For a more complete and unvarnished - yet still inspiring - version of Malcolm's life, there's "Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention," by the late Columbia scholar Manning Marable. It's the product of more than 10 years of work and draws on Malcolm's letters and diaries; the results of surveillance conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York Police Department; and interviews with Malcolm's contemporaries, including Minister Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader, whom Marable talked to for nine hours. Farrakhan has said that Malcolm was like "the father I never had." The loudest rumor before the book's release was that it would shed light on Malcolm's secret homosexual past. When he's a young hustler, we find him apparently being paid to do things with one rich, older white man, but this moment is brief and anticlimactic and does not convey the impression that Malcolm was bisexual. Besides, there are far more titillating things in this book, which dives deep into Malcolm's sex life. Marable obtained a letter Malcolm wrote in 1959 to Elijah Muhammad, then the leader of the Nation of Islam, in which he complains about his wife, Betty Shabazz: "At a time when I was going all out to keep her satisfied (sexually), one day she told me that we were incompatible sexually because I had never given her any real satisfaction." Marable describes Malcolm as a virulent misogynist and a horribly neglectful husband who repeatedly got his wife pregnant, perhaps to keep her from making good on threats to cuckold him, and also made a habit of leaving for days or months immediately after the birth of each child. That's a Malcolm we all haven't seen before. Meanwhile, the Malcolm we do know starts coming into view far earlier than expected, given that he's known for metamorphosis. Born in Omaha in 1925, Malcolm was drilled as a child in the principles of Marcus Garvey - nationalism, separatism, Pan-Africanism, black pride, self-reliance, economic self-empowerment - by his parents, Earl and Louise Little. Malcolm's father was a particularly powerful role model: a devoted Garveyite who in 1930s Michigan stood up for what was right for black people, even in the face of death threats, and then paid for his bravery with a gruesome end. The apple did not fall far at all. And as a young man working the streets of Harlem, Malcolm came to know most of the stars of '40s jazz and absorbed their example, learning to use pace, tone and space in jazzlike ways and perhaps to become a sort of jazzman of the spoken word. "He lived the existence of an itinerant musician," Marable writes, "traveling constantly from city to city, standing night after night on the stage, manipulating his melodic tenor voice as an instrument. He was consciously a performer, who presented himself as the vessel for conveying the anger and impatience the black masses felt." As Malcolm moved away from the insular religiosity of the Nation of Islam, which at the time counseled members not to vote, and into political issues, his relationship with Elijah Muhammad began to rupture. Many know that Muhammad's womanizing - the married minister fathered children with several young women - was one cause of the break between them, but few know how close their sexual paths ran. Evelyn Williams, one of the most fascinating characters in the book, fell in love with Malcolm when he was a street hustler, then moved to Harlem and joined the Nation after he became a minister. Malcolm proposed to her but changed his mind days later. After he became engaged to Betty, Williams ran screaming from the mosque. She was soon sent to Chicago to work for Muhammad and later had his baby. That must have been painful for Malcolm, but Marable does not cite Muhammad's womanizing as the main reason Malcolm broke with the Nation. Instead, he points to an incident in Los Angeles in 1962, when police officers burst into a mosque and shot seven Nation members, killing one and paralyzing another. Malcolm moved to create a squad that would assassinate members of the Los Angeles Police Department, and when Muhammad vetoed that idea, Malcolm lost faith in him, wondering if he really cared about his people's lives. Right there the bond was irreparably shattered. Later, Malcolm told Farrakhan, a protégé turned rival, about Muhammad's affairs, a conversation Farrakhan said he would have to report to the minister. This set Malcolm's death spiral in motion. Malcolm saw the end coming months in advance. He said, "There are a lot of people after me. . . . They're bound to get me." He spoke of living like a man who was already dead. He survived narrowly several times and yet did nothing to insulate himself. He could've moved to Africa for a few years, could've used armed bodyguards, could've had the audiences at his rallies searched, could've carried a weapon. But he did nothing, even as his inner circle screamed that he needed protection. Some who were close to him wonder if Malcolm wanted to die or if he had embraced death as an inevitability. Marable names the men who killed Malcolm and describes his last moments in such excruciatingly visual detail that it could bring tears or cause nightmares. He makes it plain that Nation of Islam figures ordered the killing, planned it and carried it out, but he also speculates that both the man who ordered it and the man who fired the fatal shot may have been F.B.I. informants. Did the bureau have Malcolm killed? Did it stand by and knowingly let him be killed? Marable is unsure. AS the book reveals, the F.B.I. struggled with how to deal with Malcolm - i.e., how to discredit him - because he was so disciplined, so lawabiding and too smart to actually create the violence that would allow him to be arrested. Marable shows us Malcolm in Africa, watched by the F.B.I. and the C.I.A., and points out "the David-versus-Goliath dimension": "Malcolm had few resources and was traveling without bodyguards, yet the attorney general and the F.B.I. director were so fearful of what he alone might accomplish that they searched for any plausible grounds to arrest and prosecute him upon his return." Of course, they found nothing. Similarly, an exhaustive biographer combing through Malcolm's days pulls away the curtain to show us the entirety of his life, and the emperor remains clothed. He has some failings but Malcolm is still the empowering figure his autobiography showed us he was. 'He was consciously a performer, who presented himself as the vessel for conveying . . . anger.' Touré's new book. "Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness? What It Means to Be Black Now," will be published in September.

Choice Review

Columbia University professor Marable died shortly before the publication of his marvelous biography of Malcolm X. Since Malcolm's assassination in 1965 by followers of Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam, Malcolm has been best known through his autobiography (written with Alex Haley), published shortly after his death. Nearly a half-century later, Marable has written a compelling reinterpretation of Malcolm's life, answering questions raised by the autobiography. Insisting "Malcolm's strength was his ability to reinvent himself," Marable concludes that Malcolm was an eloquent advocate for black self-respect, a representative of the black underclass, and "the most important bridge between the American people and the more than one billion Muslims throughout the world." The biography exposes inaccuracies in earlier accounts of Malcolm's life (including the autobiography), details the split between Malcolm and Elijah Muhammad, and scrutinizes the assassination plot, raising questions such as the likelihood of an informer within Malcolm's inner circle. Malcolm was one of a handful of the most important African Americans in the 20th century, and perhaps the least understood. This book is unrivaled among interpretations of a complicated man and his monumental impact. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries. A. J. Dunar University of Alabama in Huntsville

Guardian Review

#+ |9780571275908 |9780571237135 ~ Following his excellent debut, The Salati Case, Tobias Jones's second novel, also featuring private detective Castagnetti, is set in an anonymous Italian town which, due to the recession, is full of people who are "short of money and patience". Asked by a local businessman, Bragantini, to find out who torched his car, Castagnetti, a jaundiced but dogged loner who lives in a one-room, one-chair flat, finds himself on the foothills of a mountain of corruption. Bragantini's factory soon meets the same fate as his car, and he's not the only one . . . A welcome addition to the growing body of foreign writers of Italian noir, including Donna Leon, David Hewson and the late Michael Dibdin, Jones writes with understanding, intelligence and prescience about the country of Berlusconi, bunga-bunga and bungs all round. - Laura Wilson Following his excellent debut, The Salati Case, Tobias Jones's second novel, also featuring private detective Castagnetti, is set in an anonymous Italian town which, due to the recession, is full of people who are "short of money and patience". - Laura Wilson.

Kirkus Review

A candid, corrective look at the Nation of Islam leader and renegadeand a deeply informed investigation of the evolution of his thinking on race and revolution.For decades, distinguished scholar Marable (African-American Affairs/Columbia Univ.;Living Black History: How Re-Imagining the African-American Past Can Remake America's Racial Future, 2006, etc.) studied the life and work of Malcolm X (19251965), and this meticulous sifting of the fact from the fictionexpertly places him within the civil-rights movement of the time and as catalyst for the emerging Black Power struggle. The author looks beyond the myth that "Malcolmites" have woven around their leader and returns to original sources, such as NOI members and former members; Malcolm's widow and their children; African and Islamist chiefs Malcolm met on his extensive travels abroad; civil-rights activists, who were wary of his views on racial separatism; and files by the FBI and New York Police Department, who may have been complicit in his assassination by NOI operatives on Feb. 21, 1965. First and foremost, Marable deconstructs Alex Haley's masterlyAutobiography of Malcolm X (1965), which he and Malcolm collaborated on for years before Malcolm's death, but which exaggerates the exploits of Malcolm's earlier manifestation as "Detroit Red," probably in order to render more powerful the conversion to Islam of this hustler, pimp and thief incarcerated at the Norfolk Prison Colony. For years, Malcolm was NOI's exalted evangelical front man and first minister, broadcasting the organization's anti-white, anti-political doctrine before Malcolm's recognition of the crucial work of the civil-rights activists and the need for global black political engagement prompted his break with the NOIto embrace what Marable terms Pan-Africanism. Moreover, Malcolm could not sanction Elijah Muhammad's extramarital affairs and out-of-wedlock children, setting in motion a perilous countdown to NOI retribution. The Malcolm X revealed here was troublingly misogynist and occasionally precipitous in action and speech, but possessed a dauntless sincerity and intelligence that was only beginning to shape and clarify his message for humanity.A bold, sure-footed, significant biography of enormous depth and feeling.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Table of Contents

Prologue Life Beyond the Legendp. 1
Chapter 1 ôUp, You Mighty Race! ö 1925-1941p. 15
Chapter 2 The Legend of Detroit Red 1941-January 1946p. 39
Chapter 3 Becoming ôXö January 1946-August 1952p. 70
Chapter 4 ôThey Don't Come Like the Ministerö August 1952-May 1957p. 100
Chapter 5 ôBrother, a Minister Has to Be Marriedö May 1957-March 1959p. 130
Chapter 6 ôThe Hate That Hate Producedö March 1959-January 1961p. 155
Chapter 7 ôAs Sure As God Made Green Applesö January 1961-May 1962p. 180
Chapter 8 From Prayer to Protest May 1962-March 1963p. 211
Chapter 9 ôHe Was Developing Too Fastö April-November 1963p. 235
Chapter 10 ôThe Chickens Coming Home to Roostö December 1, 1963-March 12,1964p. 269
Chapter 11 An Epiphany in the Hajj March 12-May 21, 1964p. 297
Chapter 12 ôDo Something About Malcolm Xö May 21-July 11, 1964p. 321
Chapter 13 ôIn the Struggle for Dignityö July 11-November 24,1964p. 360
Chapter 14 ôSuch a Man Is Worthy of Deathö November 24,1964-February 14,1965p. 388
Chapter 15 Death Comes on Time February 14-February 21, 1965p. 418
Chapter 16 Life After Deathp. 450
Epilogue Reflections on a Revolutionary Visionp. 479
Acknowledgments and Research Notesp. 489
Notesp. 495
A Glossary of Termsp. 559
Bibliographyp. 563
Indexp. 577
Go to:Top of Page