A Lie of Reinvention: Correcting Manning Marable’s Malcolm X

Rather than view Manning Marable’s Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention as “a definitive work,” as some have called it, I, along with many others, believe Marable has left us a severely flawed biography. A Life of Reinvention is a contradictory political reshaping and distortion – a lie really – of the life and times of Malcolm X. Such a “lie” demands a strong critical response, from scholars, activists, and others in the Black community, especially publishers like us, who have benefited so richly from Malcolm’s example and legacy.

Searching for an editor to assemble a critical response led me to Jared A. Ball, who enthusiastically agreed to take on this task with the assistance of his comrade and co-editor, Todd Steven Burroughs. Halfway into the project, we decided that A Lie of Reinvention would be a perfect counter-title to Marable’s A Life of Reinvention. We also agreed that our title would speak directly to the numerous problems that critics have identified with Marable’s book. These problems include excessive use of innuendo, glaring omissions, questionable sourcing, undocumented speculation, misdirected conclusions, and an unexplained and inexcusable lack of key primary sources, for example (and maybe especially) Malcolm’s wife and family. The product of these many flaws, we believe, is essentially the LIE…

To be clear, with our title selection, and with the book itself, we are not asserting that Manning Marable is a liar. We do not make such a claim. Nor do we direct any ill will or disrespect toward Manning Marable, or his publisher, Viking Press. Instead, this book is purposely titled and published because of our intent to provide a necessary correction of Manning Marable’s Malcolm X.

W. Paul Coates

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