Wednesday, April 6, 2011

In Memoriam: Dr. Manning Marable 1950-2011

This past weekend, America lost one of its most towering intellectual treasures. Manning Marable died on April 1.


"Manning Marable, an influential historian whose forthcoming Malcolm X biography could revise perceptions of the slain civil rights leader, died Friday, just days before the book described as his life's work was to be released. He was 60."
"His wife, Leith Mullings, said Marable died from complications of pneumonia at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. She said he had suffered for 24 years from sarcoidosis, an inflammatory lung disease, and had undergone a double lung transplant in July."
""I think his legacy is that he was both a scholar and an activist," she said. "He believed that history could be used to inform the present and the future.""
"She said Marable's latest book, "Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention," will be released Monday."
"Two decades in the making, the nearly 600-page biography is described as a re-evaluation of Malcolm X's life, bringing fresh insight to subjects including his autobiography, which is still assigned in many college courses, to his assassination at the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan on Feb. 21, 1965."
"The book is based on exhaustive research, including thousands of pages of FBI files and records from the Central Intelligence Agency and State Department. Marable also conducted interviews with the slain civil rights leader's confidants and security team, as well as witnesses to his assassination."
Marable is a figure I've known of from my early adulthood, and, his articles,  the interviews of him that I read and watched, helped inform my understanding of race and class in this country. 
He has been described as "... a prolific 'scholar activist,' using his expansive body of knowledge to inform and affect social and political movements. He brought the ivory towers down to earth, embodying the spirit of what it truly means to be a 'public intellectual,' making the scholarly work that would otherwise only exist in relative obscurity, hidden in journals and dissertations, accessible to those outside of the walls of academia. From Marable one could glean that his work was never about him proving that he was the smartest man in the room; his true mission was to ensure that everyone sitting in the room benefited from the body of knowledge he had worked so hard to obtain."
I look forward with great anticipation to reading the work to which he dedicated his life - a new and significant biography on the life of Malcolm X..."On the eve of his passing, he was poised to oversee the release of the richly anticipated Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, a text that is set to be the definitive biography of "the the most remarkable historical figure produced by black America in the 20th century." Over the course of 20-plus years, Marable set about learning who Malcolm X really was, beyond the sensationalized "By Any Means Necessary" version in U.S. history books, but also beyond the romanticized hero of black nationalism found in the Spike Lee biopic, and even outside of Malcolm X's version of Malcolm X as revealed in his autobiography."
Here is yet another figure in our nation's immediate history whose work will continue to inform our understanding of our collective life - yet it is a collective life that will be that much more diminished by his absence. 
You can watch a presentation by Dr. Marable on his biography of W.E.B. DuBois here

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