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... we have to be aware of the power and importance of organizing not just around identity, but the materiality of daily life, which still, in many respects, is racialized for people of color. You build from that, but you have a grander social vision that transcends it and recognizes the strengths and limitations that are drawn from the particularity of identity.
-- Manning Marable
Manning Marable, scholar, writer, lecturer, and civil rights activist who founded the Institute for Research in African American Studies at Columbia University, died yesterday, April 1 at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City after a long illness. He was 60.
I first became acquainted with Prof. Manning’s work when his book, How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America was recommended to me by a mentor. A classic study of racism and class in the United States, it was central to my education and development as political activist (as it was for countless others). I was immediately taken by his grasp and range, his academic acumen and his ability to deconstruct complex processes in a way that made the bigger picture easier to understand.
Years later, I was invited to participate as a panelist at a conference organized by Manning Marable on mass incarceration at Columbia University and I had the pleasure of meeting him and speaking with him briefly. I was struck by his humble manner and his willingness to support the work of those who otherwise would not be heard. I was also overwhelmed that the Manning Marable would ask me, an unknown, to present my ideas. I was, like fuckin’ high, that day.
I, like many of us familiar with his work, was looking forward to his magnum opus, his biography of Malcolm X, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, a project he devoted ten years of his life to bring to fruition. The book is scheduled to be published on Monday, and Mr. Marable, as was his wont, had been looking forward to leading a vigorous public discussion of his ideas. The book promises to be intellectually stimulating and challenges both popular and scholarly portrayals of Malcolm X, the black nationalist leader, describing a man often subject to doubts about religion, politics and other matters, a departure from the authoritarian figure of unswerving moral certainty that became an enduring icon of African-American pride.
The work is particularly critical of Alex Haley’s often cited work, the “Autobiography of Malcolm X,” now a regular fixture on college reading lists, which Mr. Marable described as “fictive.” Drawing on diaries, private correspondence and surveillance records to a much greater extent than previous biographies, Manning’s book also suggests that the New York City Police Department and the F.B.I. had advance knowledge of Malcolm X’s assassination but allowed it to happen and then deliberately bungled the investigation.
I will be looking forward to reading this work and I will definitely mourn the passing of what was surely one of the intellectual giants of The Cause. It is said that no one individual truly dies. That the actions we commit in our lives continue to reverberate long after we are gone. It is said that one has died only when the memory of that individual is lost. If this indeed the case, then Manning Marable will live in our heart of hearts for a long time.
RIP Prof. Marable…
My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…