... revealing and prodigiously researched ... vividly chronicles these many incarnations of his subject, describing the 'multiple masks' he donned over the years, while charting the complex and contradiction-filled evolution of his political and religious beliefs ... This volume does not provide much psychological insight into why Malcolm X became such a protean figure, and it lacks the urgency and fierce eloquence of Malcolm X’s own Autobiography. Still, Mr. Marable artfully strips away the layers and layers of myth that have been lacquered onto his subject’s life — first by Malcolm himself in that famous memoir, and later by both supporters and opponents after his assassination in 1965 at the age of 39 ... One of the many achievements of this biography is that Mr. Marable manages to situate Malcolm X within the context of 20th-century racial politics in America without losing focus on his central character ... At the same time Mr. Marable provides a compelling account of Malcolm X’s split with the Nation of Islam ... There is one ill-considered effort in these pages to rationalize Malcolm X’s violent rhetoric in his Nation of Islam days ... For the most part in this book, however, Mr. Marable takes a methodical approach to deconstructing Malcolm X’s complex legacy.
... absorbing and well-written, passionate but painstakingly evenhanded in its explication of a figure who was evolving when he was cut down by assassins at age 39. Most importantly, Marable gives Brother Malcolm the scholarly, almost Shakespearean consideration that's long overdue. Like all good biographies, this means getting behind the myths both good and bad ... fills in the blanks with information gleaned from research and government files and extensive interviews with people close to Malcolm ... The resulting portrait is that of a man not distorted but more dynamic than we realized, in evolution at every point in his brief but exceptional public life ... Reinvention's most revealing moments are not necessarily dramatic but more day-to-day ... While the book charts Malcolm's journey of self-discovery with clear admiration, it also says that it took him a bit too long to come around.
... a groundbreaking piece of work ... The result is not just a biography, but also a history of Muslims in America and a sweeping account of one man’s transformation — and of the conspiracy, abetted by police inattention, that took his tumultuous life. The tension toward book’s end — when Malcolm was trying to figure out who might murder him — is so gripping it nearly soaks through the pages ... Marable does not shy away from Malcolm X’s repugnant statements and actions ... Marable challenges Malcolm’s autobiography but offers no real surprises ... Marable works the reinvention motif into the book with authority ... My only criticism of the book is that Marable did not tell us enough about Malcolm’s family in the years following his death ... It will be difficult for anyone to better this book. It goes deeper and richer than a mere homage to Malcolm X. It is a work of art, a feast that combines genres skillfully: biography, true-crime, political commentary. It gives us Malcolm X in full gallop, a man who died for his belief in freedom, a man whom Marable calls the 'fountainhead' of the black power movement in America.
... stunning and fascinating ... more than anything else, Marable gives us a Malcolm we have never really seen before, and makes sense of him and the world in which he lived: a figure whose deep political genealogy gave powerful shape to how he developed and what he did at various points in his life. This is an impressive study not so much of 'reinvention' as of political education, and it offers profound insight into the ideas and the aspirations that would constitute African America in the modern age ... However much contemporary observers liked to stuff Malcolm X into a fixed political category, Marable demonstrates very powerfully that Malcolm increasingly defied those categories and set out on his own odyssey of intellectual discovery and transformation.
... although the conflict over the content has probably driven sales and attention to the book, the brilliance of this biography has little if anything to do with its apparently shocking revelations. Marable has crafted an extraordinary portrait of a man and his time. Malcolm moves through the social and intellectual history of mid-20th century black America, and his periods of growth and stagnation mirror the tides of black life ... Marable gives us the long view of black politics devoted to a belief in a linked fate for black people across the diaspora, laying the foundation for the Pan-Africanist philosophy Malcolm would embrace at the end of his life ... Although recounting the details of a subject's death is the biographer's responsibility, the conclusion of Marable's book is less powerful than the whole. It moves from illuminating to speculative, from epic to mystery, and then finally to a somewhat more academic-sounding assessment of Malcolm's legacy. Notwithstanding this departure from the richly woven prose of the main parts of the text, the book is a masterpiece of meticulous detail and powerful social history ... Ultimately, the Malcolm that Marable offers us serves an important purpose for the 21st century.
Malcolm has finally received the biography that his unique role in black and global resistance culture demands ... [Marable] has left a meticulous, comprehensive and fair-minded portrait of both Malcolm and the turbulent period of American history in which he lived and died.
... did justice both to [Marable's] lifelong work as an educator and champion of progressive causes and to Malcolm X’s ever-growing importance as a figure both in the black community and impassioned fighters for freedom and justice around the world ... Needless to say, the children of Malcolm X have decried the book. But they shouldn’t. It pays their father the high respect of treating him like the world figure he is and strives to separate fact from fiction with the sober, balanced eye of a writer and scholar whose only desire is to present Malcolm X fully, with all his contradictions and complexity ... At every turn you sense the essential truth of Malcolm X: whatever stage of his philosophical and political growth, he always represented fierce, unapologetic pride in the heritage of blacks and the strength they can and should embody in the face of oppression ... Marable truly shines in the book’s final chapters. The closer we get to Malcolm X’s death, the deeper Marable plunges into the day-to-day changes ... this book will remain a cornerstone for any serious scholarly work about the life and legacy of Malcolm X.
Marable performs a signal service in providing a fresh look at the man and replacing the simplified version of his life presented in The Autobiography of Malcolm X with a more complex and accurate portrait ... What emerges from Marable’s book is the story of an angry young man’s desperate quest for a legitimate and powerful father figure in a hostile world ... Malcolm himself remains a compelling figure, even as the causes to which he devoted himself become less relevant; Marable’s thoughtful and well-written book helps one understand why.
... excellent ... The life story Marable presents is essentially the same as the one that Malcolm and Haley told ... What, then, does this biography offer that is unavailable from the Autobiography? Quite a lot, as it turns out. It draws on interviews with friends, colleagues, and family members to offer a variety of viewpoints on the man and his work. It details the social and political context in which Malcolm lived, shedding light on the extraordinary power of the Ku Klux Klan during Malcolm’s childhood, describing the quasi-Islamic organizations that preceded the Nation of Islam, and explaining the beliefs and inner workings of the Nation and of the two organizations that Malcolm founded toward the end of his short life: the Islamic group Muslim Mosque, Inc., and the pan-African Organization for Afro-American Unity ... Marable tells the story of Malcolm’s assassination and its aftermath in a way that Malcolm himself obviously could not.
... the most thorough and incisive portrait yet of this complicated, controversial, and enormously influential spiritual and political leader. Electric with recovered facts and jolting revelations, Marable’s dramatic and penetrating portrait is set within richly configured historical and cultural settings that illuminate long-neglected facets of the civil rights movement ... clarifying insights into the private conflicts of this brilliant, eloquent, magnetic, and zealous thinker, his outlaw years, troubled marriage, ceaseless travels, political prescience, and fatalism. The most chilling facets of the book are Marable’s chronicling of the FBI’s deep infiltration into the Nation of Islam and, after his ostracism, Malcolm’s organizations and of possible FBI collusion in Malcolm’s assassination and the failure to bring his killers to justice. Marable’s paramount biography leaves readers wondering where Malcolm’s spiritual and humanitarian metamorphosis might have taken him and everyone within reach of his commanding voice.
Marable’s biography judiciously sifts fact from myth ... Marable’s book is at its best in drawing out its subject’s shifting politics ... To Marable’s credit, he does not judge Malcolm’s significance by his seeming failure to forge a coherent philosophy.
A candid, corrective look at the Nation of Islam leader and renegade—and a deeply informed investigation of the evolution of his thinking on race and revolution ... his meticulous sifting of the fact from the fiction expertly places [Malcolm X] within the civil-rights movement of the time and as catalyst for the emerging Black Power struggle ... A bold, sure-footed, significant biography of enormous depth and feeling.
It is truly a shame that Marable passed away just days before this epic masterwork reached stores ... the towering achievement of this book, which took Marable almost two decades to complete, is his ability to present Malcolm X as a flawed, struggling human being, as much at odds with his government as with himself. Marable deftly follows the same narrative path as did Haley's autobiography, but filling in the gaps and fine-tuning the exaggerations of that best-selling volume ... Marable succeeds spectacularly in painting a broader and more complex portrait of a man constantly in search of himself and his place in America.