The Debate Continues — And I see why they’re pissed at Marable

The storm is still raging following the late Manning Marable’s recent Malcolm X biography.  Books are now in print taking aim at it, taking it to pieces, from the looks of it (see below).   I was in the library today, found Marable’s book on the shelf and checked the end notes.  They are indeed surprisingly sparse and almost random, as the critic who called the research amateurishly done by a team of grad students claimed they were.

I checked out two controversial assertions by Marable and went to the end notes.   There was a conspicuous lack of sources for Marable’s statement that “Based on circumstantial but strong evidence, Malcolm was probably describing his own homosexual encounters with Paul Lennon” (66).  The circumstantial evidence was that Malcolm Little’s prison records indicate that he was once employed as a male secretary for the homosexual Lennon.  This one could probably go either way.

The same probably cannot be said for the thread about the 18 year-old mistress Marable says Malcolm carried on an affair with during the last few months of his life.  This woman, in Marable’s account, may have stolen into Malcolm’s 12th floor single room in the Hilton the last night of his life, making her responsible for the ominous wake up call he received in that room early the next morning.  This same woman, interviewed by the NYPD after the murder, had been sitting in the front row at the Audubon as Malcolm was shot.  She had been seated next to a member of the Newark Mosque (the mosque where all the known assassins allegedly came from)  a man she went on to live with for 40 years.  It was this same Sharon 6X Poole, according to Marable, who called to volunteer false information to the cops a few days later that helped implicate, and later convict, two Harlem NOI men who were not involved in the shooting (or even present at the Audubon on the day of the murder).

If Marable’s account is credible, this woman had a direct hand in setting Malcolm up for death and then misleading the police about the identities of his killers in order to protect them.  One looks in vain for a footnote establishing the source of Marable’s belief.  Marable writes of the alleged affair:

Of these [earlier possible affairs or liaisons] no certainty can be had, but after his return from Africa, Malcolm appears to have begun an illicit sexual affair with an eighteen-year-old OAAU secretary named Sharon 6X Poole.  Little is known about her or about their relationship except that it appears to have continued up to Malcolm’s death.  (394)  

No source is given in the notes.

That she “may have joined him” in his room at the Hilton on Feb. 20, 1965, Marable attributes to a 6/18/03 oral history with Malcolm’s second in command James 67X Warden.  A page or two earlier Marable describe’s James 67X’s frustration with not being kept up to date about Malcolm’s whereabouts the last few days of Malcolm’s life, including that last night.

Much as I initially applauded and was moved by Marable’s account of Malcolm’s life, the speculative nature of these kinds of weaselishly worded passages, making, at best, careless, assertions against the veracity (my acquaintance “Rudy” did the  homosexual routine with the perverted rich white guy, not me)  and character (Elijah Muhammad is a hypocrite to commit adultery with young secretaries, I am above that temptation) of a man many of us admire greatly, I may have to join the group who is after the ghost of Manning Marable to push him up against the wall and demand “what?”

cut and pasted:

By Any Means Necessary Malcolm X: Real, Not Reinvented

By Any Means Necessary editors-Herb Boyd, Ron Daniels, Maulana Karenga and Haki Madhubuti-are in unison when stating:

Our purpose here with this collection is to continue, and to expand, the debate arising from Manning Marable’s biography.

Through the collective vision of these four scholars, wordmakers and educators, readers now have a comprehensive view of the Marable text as well as new scholarship and insight on Malcolm X – the man, “Real, Not Reinvented”.  By Any Means Necessary Malcolm X: Real, Not Reinvented and Malcolm X: A Lie of Reinvention are two of the more prominent books being released by Black publishers to push back against Manning Marable’s Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention.

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