The Humanization of Malcolm X

A new biography examines the life of an icon.

Posted: 04/07/2011 04:56 PM EDT
Filed Under Malcolm X

Two of Malcolm X's daughters Ilyasah and Malaak Shabazz have come out against portions of the latest book that examines the life of the civil rights icon.

The sisters claim that Manning Marable's Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention makes a number of incendiary claims including that both Malcolm X and his wife Betty were unfaithful, accounts of Malcolm's previous criminal activity may have been exaggerated and that the FBI may have had advance notice of the assassination plot, but did nothing to prevent it.

Over the years, since Malcolm X's death, he has become more of an idea than a man. He has been elevated to a level of sainthood in the Black community as evidenced by the many murals, posters, and paintings depicting Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Nelson Mandela or President Obama. Somewhere in between his life, the books, and that steely, but determined gaze, we may have lost the real Malcolm. Yes, he accomplished great things. He presented a left-of-center way to getting to the mountaintop that captured the world's imagination and held it transfixed. Is it so hard to believe that some parts of Malcolm X's could have been exaggerated or left out for the sake of telling a better story in a John Henry–esque way?

Though neither daughter has read the book yet, Ilyasah and Malaak are adamant that their parents were in a loving and faithful relationship. Ilyasah spoke to the Associated Press and stated that the marriage "was definitely faithful and devoted because my father was a man of impeccable integrity, and I think that most people, if they're not clear on anything, they're clear that he was moral and ethical and had impeccable character."

According to the Associated Press, Marable intended for Reinvention to be a tribute, however he didn't want to produce another work that would deify Malcolm X like Alex Haley's The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Spike Lee's biopic film X. Marable says the origin of the book's subtitle comes from the slain leader's ability to admit his mistakes and subsequently learn and grow from them.

Hearing allegations about a parent's infidelity can be jarring, but I would hope that they would reserve judgment until they've read the book. At the end of the day, Malcolm X was a human being and no human being is without fault. Malcolm X's legacy shouldn't be tarnished by this book, if anything it should allow us get a better understanding of a complex, multifaceted man who changed the world.

Are you planning to read the new Marable's book? What do you think of the initial claims that the book makes? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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