Manning Marable dies at 60; historian and author of forthcoming Malcolm X biography

Manning Marable, an influential historian whose forthcoming biography of Malcolm X could revise perceptions of the slain civil rights leader, has died only days before the book described as his life’s work was to be published. He was 60.

Manning Marable: The obituary of historian Manning Marable in the April 4 LATExtra section did not include a complete list of his survivors. In addition to his wife, three children and two stepchildren, Marable is survived by his mother, sister and three grandchildren. —

Marable died Friday of complications of pneumonia at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, said his wife, Leith Mullings. She said Marable had suffered for 24 years from sarcoidosis, a disease characterized by inflammation in the lungs or other tissue, and had undergone a double lung transplant in July.

“Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention” is scheduled to be released Monday.

The nearly 600-page biography is described as a reevaluation of Malcolm X’s life, bringing fresh insight to subjects including “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” and his assassination at the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan on Feb. 21, 1965.

The book is based on exhaustive research, including thousands of pages of FBI files and records from the Central Intelligence Agency and State Department. Marable also conducted interviews with the slain civil rights leader’s confidants and security team, as well as witnesses to his assassination.


Benjamin Todd Jealous, president of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, said in a statement that Marable’s “contributions to the struggle for freedom of African Americans will never be forgotten.”

Marable was born May 13, 1950, in Dayton, Ohio. He wrote in his 1996 book, “Speaking Truth to Power: Essays on Race, Resistance and Radicalism” that he was born into an era that witnessed the emergence of Rosa Parks and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as nonviolent movements in the South struggling to break the back of white supremacy.

Marable was the child of middle-class black Americans, he wrote, his father a teacher and businessman, his mother an educator and college professor. He watched from afar as blacks in the South rebelled against segregation and racial inequality.

He wrote that his mother encouraged him to attend King’s funeral in Atlanta in 1968 “to witness a significant event in our people’s history.” He served as the local black newspaper’s correspondent and marched along with thousands of others during the funeral procession.


“With Martin’s death, my childhood abruptly ended,” Marable wrote. “My understanding of political change began a trajectory from reform to radicalism.”

In the 1970s, Marable earned a bachelor’s degree from Earlham College in Indiana, a master’s from the University of Wisconsin and a doctorate from the University of Maryland.

He wrote hundreds of papers and nearly 20 books, including “How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America” and “The Great Wells of Democracy: The Meaning of Race in American Life.”

Marable was a professor of African American studies, history, political science and public affairs at Columbia University, where he also was director of the Center for Contemporary Black History and the founding director of African American Studies from 1993 to 2003.


Along with his wife of 15 years, Marable’s survivors include three children and two stepchildren. His first marriage ended in divorce.