Malcolm X and The Politics of Historiography with Dr. Scot Brown

Dr. Scot Brown, author of Fighting For US, invited me to discuss A Lie of Reinvention: Correcting Manning Marable’s Malcolm X with one of his classes at UCLA.  Dr. Brown’s class is studying the historiography of Malcolm X and our book is included in that mix.  The discussion became a truly interesting one that engaged questions of the politics of historiography, including what may be the potential impact of the current political moment on that body of knowledge.


  1. It makes me chafe every time somebody interrupts a speaker and Dr. Brown interrupted Dr. Ball almost non-stop. I also think that too much time was spent on discussing Malcolm X’s sexual life, but I guess that it what young people would care about most in a book that they were forced to read. But all in all, pretty good discussion and response. These students are wild, hopefully they got something out of the discussion.

    The Bill Clinton v Barack Obama thing was a bit silly. Black people may have cordially hyped Clinton as the ‘first’ Black president but they in no way shape or form believed that Black life was somehow redeemed through Clinton. There were no cult-ish songs praising Clinton. And Black radicals were definitely not on board with the hoodwinking that Clinton had on mainstream Black democrats. Lastly, Clinton may have gotten 90%+ of the Black vote, but WAY more Black people got out to vote for Obama in 2008. Case closed, Obama deserves way more scrutiny.

    Finally, the idea that Black politics was in decline long before Obama: I am ambivalent about that statement. The Black political tradition has always waxed and waned with about 20-40 years in between large struggles (Civil War/Reconstruction, Harlem/Negritude/Garveyism, Civil Rights/Black Power). If we went about this sort of timeline, our movement should be picking up about now and it certainly WOULD be if Obama or and other nominally Black person was not in office. The world, with Black people at the forefront, would not have taken another Bush-lookalike doing the same Bush things, but Obama selection stunned the world like a moth to a bug zapper. And once again, our so-called radical wing in Black politics certainly would not have been affected if anybody other than Obama had been put into office. Now, we do not have an old guard, we have no new guard (even though I have seen more young Africans more critical of Obama lately). The only thing that we have left is for Obama to leave office and I do think that our movement politics will restart, or else why would homeland security, the police, and the like be stockpiling weaponry??

    Such interesting times that we live in.


  2. The unsupported claim that Malcolm X’s [as ‘Detroit Red’] homo-sexual alter ego was ‘Rudy’ is provably FALSE. Rudy has been definitively IDed for 2 decades. Rudy’s real name was Francis ‘Sonny’ Brown.
    Likewise the unsupported claim that Malcolm X had the young OAAU sister as a ‘bed-warmer’ in his hotel room on the eve of his assassination. can also be refuted just by reading the Epilogue Chapter [pgs 430 – 431] of Malcolm’s Autobiography. The incident that took place on the evening of Feb 20, 1965- at the hotel Malcolm was staying, documented in the Epilogue [pgs 430 – 431], makes this accusation by Marable’s ‘book of Reinvention’ simply ludicrous.

    The salacious accusations slung at both Malcolm & Sis Betty- in drive-by cheap-shot fashion is insidious for several reasons. First- Why did Malcolm leave the NOI after falling-out w Elijah Muhammed? Because of [substantiated] claims that Mr Muhammed had extra-marital affairs w several of his young secretaries- resulting in out of wed-lock births. Thus Marable’s book tries to make, not just unsubstantiated but provably FALSE accusations, of exactly the same kind of infidelity against Malcolm & Betty- Thus painting him / them as HYPOCRITES! Plus as we know SEX Sells- movies, BOOKS, lingerie & ‘hot & sexy’ fashions, perfume, liquor, ‘hot-rod’ cars, etc… Therefore IMO this can’t just be glossed over in an effort to just move on. It must be taken head on- since the evidence to refute this / these FALSE claim(s) [= LIES] exists!

    Ms Wendy Wolf, chief editor of Marable’s LIE of Reinvention, comes off as a white lame-stream ‘liberal’ bourgeois feminist.
    But closely linked to the lame-stream [= mostly affluent white] ‘liberal’ feminist movement is the lame-stream ‘liberal’ LGBT movement. Both of these movements have largely leap-frogged from & now largely surpassed / displaced the Black freedom movement – RE to clout amongst lame-stream ‘liberal’ Dims [FYI: Obama struck down DADT & is the first POTUS on record for saying he supports ‘queer’ marriage]. Thus IMO trying to paint [or TAR] Malcolm as ‘gay’ is part of the effort to so-call ‘humanize’ him to make him more palatable to lame-stream [white] ‘liberals’ [mainly of the Democrat persuasion].

    PS: We should know the history of the Democrat party, to know they did NOT just move to the right, w the rise of Slick Willy’s & Gore’s DLC, from out of the blue. The Democrat party was originally founded as the US’ Dixie-crat party, w Slave-owning / Injun Killin Andrew Jackson as its original standard bearer circa 1828. The Dims remained a largely Dixie-crat party up-till the LBJ era [who he himself along w Truman] was a {quasi?}Dixie-crat. The fact is the Democrat party have NEVER been dominated by progressives [IE has NO real progressive roots]. At best the Dims were a centrist party w some mildly ‘liberal’ tendencies during the tenures of FDR, JFK & Carter. But w the rise of Slick Willy’s DLC, the Dims have become about as corporatist, anti-working class, pro-the 1%- as the Repugs- w the only distinguishing differences being on things like so-called ‘queer marriage’ & so-called ‘freedom of choice’ [= unrestricted access to artificial birth-control & abortions even for teenage girls without parental consent]- A term popularized by Slick Willy.

  3. Very good and interesting discussion or more like a lively debate. Very refreshing. Nowadays, folks don’t care to debate issues; but, are quick to take issue with something without being objective and open-minded. We can agree to disagree; and, we can agree to agree; at least we can agree to talk about it. I am in the process of finishing the Autobiography of Malcolm X. It is a very good read. I’ve learned a lot about Malcolm X. I am ashamed that I almost 40 and have never read it until now. My issue with reading autobiographies (especially books on famous leaders and important figures) is that different authors write books based more on their own ideas about whom they believe the person is or was instead of it being based on sheer facts and unbiased concepts. Can you recommend any excellent books on Malcolm X (along with your work of course) that I can read to gain a better and well-rounded understanding of the man himself?

  4. Thanks Joe. But no, the plan was to only publish our parts as we had not gotten appropriate permission to record the students.

  5. Very insightful discussion, the exchanges between you and Dr. Brown will surely push our collective thinking forward. My take is any scholarly work, be it published for professionals or the general public, must support its assertions with corroborated evidence.

    On another note, is there any way you can provide the questions posed by the students, they weren’t audible when I listened to the discussion.

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