Some may call it irony, some may call it poetic justice but on Monday, April 16 — which would have been Malcolm X’s 86th birthday —the author of the most comprehensive biography of the civil rights leader’s life and work, received the Pulitzer Prize for History. Columbia University professor, Dr Manning Marable, author of Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, was awarded the coveted prize as he died at the age of 60, only 60 days before the book’s publication.
The nearly 600-page biography thoroughly re-exmaines Malcolm X’s life, his work and the assassination. Although Malcolm authorized journalist Alex Haley to chronicle his own life in the famous The Autobiography of Malcolm X, published nine months after he died, Marable criticized the work saying that it was more Haley’s voice than Malcolm’s. In Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention Marable establishes that the Autobiography omitted some significant aspects of Malcolm’s youthful criminal life while dramatically exaggerating others.
Marable also confirms a theory presented in Bruce Perry’s 1991 biography, Malcolm: The Life of a Man Who Changed Black America, that Malcolm developed a close relationship with William Paul Lennon, a wealthy gay white man in his late fifties, who paid Malcolm for sex.
The award winning biography digs into Malcolm’s marriage with Betty Shabazz, summing up the relationship as one in which he regarded Shabazz “largely as a nuisance.” But according to critics the books only major shortcoming is failing to provide solid information regarding the FBI and the New York Police Department’s investigation of the Nation of Islam and how much either agency knew in advance about the assassination team that killed Malcolm X at the Audubon Ballroom in New York in 1965. -roz edward