(FinalCall.com) – For decades, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” has been viewed by many as a complete look inside the heart and mind of a man who for years was hated and criticized in life by some of the same entities that have named streets and schools for him after his death.
Whereas Malcolm X was called a bigot, anti-Semite and anti-White during his tenure in the Nation of Islam as a student, minister and follower of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, his image is now available on postage stamps.
Pictures of him on posters now adorn the walls of libraries, dorm rooms and t-shirts. The “Autobiography of Malcolm X” as told to Alex Haley is required reading in high schools and college campuses all over the country and his life was further immortalized in the 1992 movie Malcolm X, based on the book, by filmmaker Spike Lee. Myths, misconceptions and unanswered questions about the circumstances surrounding his 1965 assassination continue to be raised. This includes inquiries about any involvement or knowledge of his death by law enforcement agencies.
A new biography, released April 4, “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention,” authored by Dr. Manning Marable delves into this and more. Twenty years in the making, Dr. Marable spent much of the last decade intensely researching the life and history of Malcolm X and was a history and political science professor at Columbia University. He died at age 60, three days before the book’s release.
Zaheer Ali, a doctoral candidate at Columbia University in New York and lead researcher on Dr. Marable’s book, says the well-known autobiography written by Alex Haley is a powerful story of transformation and inspiration that has affected millions of people but it is a literary text not a historical text.
“It is a literary text because it is a very powerful story but it’s not a story that is completely grounded in evidence; so as a historical text you have to look at it with a critical eye,” Mr. Ali told The Final Call. However, he explains that it is the nature of memoirs that when people tell their own stories things may have been forgotten, omitted, exaggerated or blended together. The autobiography was also presented through the prism of Alex Haley, he added.
Dr. Marable’s book explores the fact that Malcolm X was not fully aware of the extent undercover law enforcement were in his presence, notes Mr. Ali. “In his autobiography, he isn’t fully aware of the degree to which the federal and state law enforcement agencies are surveilling him,” says Mr. Ali. Malcolm did not know the degree to which his organization as well as the Nation of Islam had been infiltrated by agents and informants, he added.
Dr. Marable’s research uncovers the fact that as early as the 1950s Malcolm was helping the Honorable Elijah Muhammad establish Temples around the country and Boston was a city he helped set up a meeting place in a private home. “Maybe 10 or 12 people were in attendance at this first meeting in January of 1954 and one of those people was an informant and that gives you a sense of how deeply embedded intelligence services were in the Nation of Islam,” Mr. Ali told The Final Call.
According to the book, undercover agents and informants also infiltrated Muslim Mosque, Inc., (MMI) and the Organization of Afro-American Unity, two groups Malcolm formed after he left the Nation of Islam. Gene Roberts, who was one Malcolm X’s chief bodyguard’s and at the Audubon Ballroom when he was shot, was an undercover agent in the bureau of special services. In the book, Dr. Marable says Mr. Roberts’ first assignment was to infiltrate the newly formed MMI.
It is important to understand the forces that were acting upon Malcolm and the way he responded to hopefully gain a deeper understanding of him as well as to address unanswered questions about his assassination says, Mr. Ali. “One of the things Dr. Marable was really hoping to do with this book was to raise those questions and the volume of those questions to the point where people would see that the case needed to be reopened,” says Mr. Ali.
The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan has repeatedly called for reopening and investigating the case and releasing government files. On May 6, 1995 at Harlem’s legendary Apollo Theatre, Min. Farrakhan along with Malcolm’s widow, the late Dr. Betty Shabazz met publically to begin a process of healing and reconciliation between the Nation of Islam and Malcolm’s family. The meeting was sparked by the arrest of Quibilah Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz.
Quibilah Shabazz had been accused of trying to hire an assassin to kill Min. Farrakhan. The alleged hitman, Michael Summers Fitzpatrick, a member of the Jewish community was also an informant for the federal government. He would have been the chief witness against Quibilah Shabazz, who was described as a troubled young woman who knew Mr. Fitzpatrick in high school.
Minister Farrakhan responded to an explosion of news about the plot by challenging the federal government’s role and motivation, calling for no harm to come to the Shabazz family and calling Quibilah the “smallest part” of any conspiracy against him. The Minister’s strong response led to government squelching the charges against Quibilah but no action on his call for the release of all government files on Malcolm X was taken.
“We want the truth to be made known so that we as a people can be made free of suspicion and doubt and let the truth condemn whomever truth would condemn. But the people must go free and we, the Nation of Islam, as well as those outside the Nation of Islam, need to know all of the truth as it relates to the assassination of Brother Malcolm X,” Min. Farrakhan said at the historic gathering. Five months later, Dr. Shabazz addressed the crowd at Million Man March called by Min. Farrakhan. She died in 1997 as the result of injuries in a fire set by grandson Malcolm Shabazz, Quibilah’s son.
Minister Farrakhan, speaking recently to Muslims, again challenged any rumor that he had any part in the knowledge, planning or carrying out of Malcolm’s death. If the government had evidence, legal action would have been taken, said the Minister. They have nothing, he said.
Abdul Akbar Muhammad knew and worked with Malcolm X in the 1960s and is the international representative of Min. Farrakhan. The reason this book is different from other books written about Malcolm is the number of years of research Dr. Marable conducted, he says.
As a member of the Nation of Islam for over 50 years, Akbar Muhammad says though there are aspects of the book he does not agree with and differs with, he can appreciate the tremendous research that went into the book.
“I would hope, agree or disagree with Dr. Manning that Muslims who want an insight to this period, you know Malcolm is an enigma and in the American landscape especially in the Black American community, people want to know and this book gives them a base of knowledge about Malcolm,” says Akbar Muhammad.
Video: The Murder of Malcolm X and the Affect on Black America (FCN, 02-21-1990)