Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

The Second Assassination of Malcolm X: A Critical Review of Manning Marable's Biography

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

The Second Assassination of Malcolm X: A Critical Review of Manning Marable's Biography

Article excerpt

After great anticipation, the long-awaited release of Manning Marable's (1950-2011) biography of Malcolm X (1925-1965) has finally arrived, producing deep disappointment as opposed to critical acclaim. Titled Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention (New York: Viking, 2011. ISBN: 978-0-670-0220-5), the prodigious 594 page product contains 16 chapters, along with a prologue and an epilogue, with titles drawn mostly from quotations, including: "Up, You Mighty Race!," "The Legend of Detroit Red," "Becoming 'X,'" "They Don't Come Like the Minister," "Brother, a Minister Has to be Married," "The Hate that Hate Produced," "As Sure as God Made Green Apples," "From Prayer to Protest," "He was Developing Too Fast," "The Chickens Coming Home to Roost," "An Epiphany in the Hajj," "Do Something About Malcolm X," "In the Struggle for Dignity," "Such a Man is Worthy of Death," "Death Comes on Time," and "Life After Death."

Marketed as Manning Marable's "magnum opus" and the "definitive biography" of Malcolm X, the work is filled with more fantasy than fact. Herb Boyd, the author and journalist, stated that he found more than 25 major mistakes in the book, some of which were "absolutely egregious." In reality, the work is littered with masses of mistakes ranging from typos and incorrect page numbers in references to false or questionable information. Karl Evanzz, the author of The Messenger: The Rise and Fall of Elijah Muhammad and The Judas Factor: The Plot to Kill Malcolm X had denounced the work as an "abomination," a "fraud and a failure," as well as "a cavalcade of innuendo and logical fallacy." Rather than rely on trustworthy sources, the biographer makes all sorts of unsubstantiated allegations about Malcolm X based on rumors and gossip from the most specious of sources.

One of the most objectionable aspects of Marable's work is his allegation that Malcolm X was a homosexual. Considering the gravity of the matter, one would expect a serious scholar to provide a strong case based on positive proof. Marable, however, provides nothing more than circumstantial evidence to support his claims (66). According to Marable, Malcolm X worked as a "butler and occasional house worker" for William Paul Lennon, a wealthy 56-year-old white man (66). While working as Lennon's "male secretary," the author alleges that "something deeper than an employer-employee relationship developed" (66). To be blunt, the author asserts that Malcolm X became sexually involved with Lennon (96) and that "he participated in ... paid homosexual encounters" (66). While Malcolm does mention the "powder sessions" that took place at the home of a rich white man in his Autobiography, Marable claims that he "falsely attributed them to a character named Rudy" (66). In short, Marable alleges that "Rudy" was a fictitious character that Malcolm invented in order to disassociate himself with the homosexual activity he described and that "Malcom was probably describing his own homosexual encounters with Paul Lennon" (66). However, as all authoritative accounts explain, "Rudy" appears to be the nickname that Malcolm created for Francis "Sonny" Brown to protect his identity in the same way that he employed the name "Sophia" as a cover for Bea Caragulian, his Armenian lover. According to Malcolm "Shorty" Jarvis, Sonny did indeed exist (46). Whether he was "Rudy" cannot presently be confirmed. Jarvis also mentions that a certain "John R" belonged to their crew (46). Perhaps the "R" was short for "Rudy." In any event, the existence of "Rudy" can hardly be questioned. He was certainly not Malcolm's homosexual alter-ego.

Although Marable admits that "[t]here is no evidence from his prison record in Massachusetts or from his personal life after 1952 that he was actively homosexual" (66), he suggests that Malcolm suppressed his sexual orientation for the rest of his life. In fact, this allegation serves as a narrative thread throughout his biography. The author claims that Malcolm wrote several letters to Lennon while in prison (72, 73), and suggests that his gay white lover may have visited him during his incarceration (75). …

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