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Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention

by Manning Marable

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1,1352917,868 (4.11)89
This biography of Malcolm X draws on new research to trace his life from his troubled youth through his involvement in the Nation of Islam, his activism in the world of Black Nationalism, and his assassination. Years in the making, it is a definitive biography of the legendary black activist. Of the great figures in twentieth-century American history perhaps none is more complex and controversial than Malcolm X. Constantly rewriting his own story, he became a criminal, a minister, a leader, and an icon, all before being felled by assassins' bullets at age thirty-nine. Through his tireless work and countless speeches he empowered hundreds of thousands of black Americans to create better lives and stronger communities while establishing the template for the self-actualized, independent African American man. In death he became a broad symbol of both resistance and reconciliation for millions around the world. Filled with new information and shocking revelations that go beyond the Autobiography of Malcolm X, this work unfolds a story of race and class in America, from the rise of Marcus Garvey and the Ku Klux Klan to the struggles of the civil rights movement in the fifties and sixties. Reaching into Malcolm's troubled youth, it traces a path from his parents' activism through his own engagement with the Nation of Islam, charting his astronomical rise in the world of Black Nationalism and culminating in the never-before-told true story of his assassination. This work captures the story of one of the most singular forces for social change, a man who constantly strove, in the great American tradition, to remake himself anew.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
This is a brilliant biography that is beautifully written. The deep level of research and analysis really comes through and provides a rich new understanding of Malcolm X. ( )
  lschiff | Sep 24, 2023 |
"Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention" by Manning Marable is the definitive biography of Malcolm X. This book is a tomb and was much longer than my usual audiobooks.

Malcolm X was a complex man who was constantly thinking and growing. Many remember only his hateful comments and his murder, and he was not the best husband and father. However, Malcolm X improved the world in his short life. How much more could he have done?

The book showed the weeds with the roses. I got to know who Malcolm X was. I am glad I read it. ( )
  nab6215 | Jan 18, 2022 |
Manning Marable has written a scholarly biography of a controversial civil rights figure. Unlike the Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley, this book tries to separate facts from how Malcolm and Alex chose to portray him. After a few years of petty crime, Malcolm Little was convicted of a series of home thefts and sentenced to prison, where he converted to Muslim and became a devotee of Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam (NOI). After his parole, Malcolm X rose to prominence as an evangelist, recruiting members and building temples (mosques) in cities in the Mid-west and East. Malcolm X's main messages of self respect, discipline, economic development and empowerment were overshadowed by his rhetoric of violence. He was unwilling to work within the system, like other black leaders during this era (notably Martin Luther King, Jr. and many others), because he did not think white America (the so-called "white devils") would ever recognize blacks as their equal. Malcolm X advocated for separation, not integration. Eventually, his political views became as important in his message as his religious devotion to Elijah Muhammad, causing an irreparable rift. After learning of Muhammad's multiple infidelities and his growing personal wealth, which he felt were inconsistent with Muslim values and beliefs, Malcolm journeyed to Africa and the Middle East (including a Hajj), meeting with religious and political leaders overseas, leading to the formation of his own religious clique (Muslim Mosque, Inc.) and a political clique (the Organization of African American Unity.) Preaching Black Nationalism, Malcolm X was a polarizing figure, creating enemies within the black community (NOI, certain moderates) and within the law enforcement community too. Yet, throughout his tumultuous years, Malcolm X worked with a broad cross-section of leaders in Harlem and elsewhere on secular issues such as education, voting registration, police brutality, etc. I think the book's subtitle "A Life of Reinvention" may be a bit idealistic as I think "A Life of Contradiction" is more apt. There are many instances where his sexist or anti Semitism are obvious, but as his assassination approached, Malcolm X's views moderated to judging a person based on their actions, not the color of their skin or religious affiliations. ( )
  skipstern | Jul 11, 2021 |
Manning’s thorough investigation into the life and legacy of Malcolm X, at first admittedly rubbed me the wrong way, but with further reading Marable redeems himself through from the madness of his methods in explaining the many transformations of Malcolm X. The subtle element of superciliousness throughout the book is nothing more than the attempt to refute the mischaracterization of Malcolm X and his beliefs purported by others over the years and not aimed directly at Malcolm X, the man, himself. Having read The Autobiography and now Marable’s tome, I’m struck at how alone Malcolm had to have been throughout his life, precipitated by his intellectual journeys and interpersonal conflicts—from being immersed in a Black Supremacist cult, to embracing iconoclastic Pan-Africanist humanism, while concurrently dealing with familial abandonment and personal betrayals. In the end, A Life of Reinvention effectively manages to reinvent an accurate retelling of the life of Malcolm X by revealing in, vivid detail, the brutally honest truth in the life of a revolutionary, often misunderstood and miscalculated, man. ( )
  nfulks32 | Jul 17, 2020 |
First of all my review takes into account two aspects: First and foremost Manning Marable's work as a biographer and to a lesser extent Malcom's journey itself.

As a biographical piece I love what Marable did here. He is in no way trying to paint a glorified picture of Malcom X. His own political views affect the work to some extent but these do not overshadow the biography. At points he actually makes Malcom look worse than what I would had expected. His insight into Malcom's journey is quite objective and if he does romanticize the subject a little it is only towards the epilogue.

I got into this biography knowing very little of who Malcom X was and most of what I heard was the negative aspects of his political career. Today I cannot say I admire the man, but I can admire the message he was communicating towards the end of his life. Self pride, self determination, self sufficiency are messages I can get behind as a libertarian. The fact that he abandoned his pro segregation and racist message is something that I can admire. But there are aspects to his character that do not permit me to give him the same level of admiration I feel towards Marin Luther King Jr.

9/10 and a great read for anyone interested in knowing more about the icons of the civil rights era. ( )
  Miguel.Arvelo | Jun 9, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
Although Manning Marable may not have succeeded in writing a definitive work, his considerable scholarship does remind us how much is elided by any tale of a pilgrim's progress.
added by Katya0133 | editRemnick, David, New Yorker (Apr 25, 2011)
 
added by Katya0133 | editNew York Amsterdam News, Boyd Herb (Apr 21, 2011)
 
[A] landmark book that reflects not only thorough research and accessible prose but, most impressively, unvarnished assessments and consistently acute interpretive judgments.
added by Katya0133 | editWilson Quarterly, David J. Garrow (Apr 1, 2011)
 
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No one has made more sacrifices to realize the completion of this work than Leith Mullings. For more than a decade, she has bee my constant companion and intellectual compass as I have attempted to reconstruct the past. This work is hers.
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Malcolm X's father, Earl Little, Sr., was born in Reynolds, Georgia, on July 29, 1890.
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This biography of Malcolm X draws on new research to trace his life from his troubled youth through his involvement in the Nation of Islam, his activism in the world of Black Nationalism, and his assassination. Years in the making, it is a definitive biography of the legendary black activist. Of the great figures in twentieth-century American history perhaps none is more complex and controversial than Malcolm X. Constantly rewriting his own story, he became a criminal, a minister, a leader, and an icon, all before being felled by assassins' bullets at age thirty-nine. Through his tireless work and countless speeches he empowered hundreds of thousands of black Americans to create better lives and stronger communities while establishing the template for the self-actualized, independent African American man. In death he became a broad symbol of both resistance and reconciliation for millions around the world. Filled with new information and shocking revelations that go beyond the Autobiography of Malcolm X, this work unfolds a story of race and class in America, from the rise of Marcus Garvey and the Ku Klux Klan to the struggles of the civil rights movement in the fifties and sixties. Reaching into Malcolm's troubled youth, it traces a path from his parents' activism through his own engagement with the Nation of Islam, charting his astronomical rise in the world of Black Nationalism and culminating in the never-before-told true story of his assassination. This work captures the story of one of the most singular forces for social change, a man who constantly strove, in the great American tradition, to remake himself anew.

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