Friday, April 01, 2011


Manning Marable's new book on Malcolm X will be released Monday, but Manning won't be with us to celebrate.

A few minutes ago I got the sad news that Manning Marable has died, age 60, after long struggle with lung disease.

Like so many others, I first knew of Marable through his early book How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America. The title was a delightful play on the work of Walter Rodney, and Marable's book more than earned its comparison to his Guyanese predecessor. It was hard to believe, in the years that followed, that one person could keep up such a pace of activism while at the same time publishing so many valuable and ground breaking books.

At least one of my own projects owes its appearance in part to Marable. It was Manning who had suggested to the director of the University of Mississippi Press that they should look into the possibility of publishing work by and about C.L.R. James, a suggestion that led directly to that director's contacting me about the project that eventually became C.L.R. James: A Critical Introduction.

Which leads to my favorite Manning Marable anecdote. Selwyn Cudjoe organized one of the first international conferences on James's life and legacy, hosting it at Wellesley college. Manning Marable was, of course, one of the essential panelists on the schedule. Things were running late already when Selwyn began his banquet speech (a version of which appears in the book C.L.R. James: His Intellectual Legacies). Manning had been delayed in getting to the conference site, and walked into the room as Selwyn was speaking. In those days, unlike more recent years, Manning sported a fairly long Afro, which had already turned completely grey. Which prompted Selwyn, upon seeing Manning enter the room, to interrupt himself and observe:

"There's Manning. He wanting to be our next W.E.B. DuBois, but he looking like Frederick Douglass."

A decade later, Manning Marable came to Santa Barbara to deliver a major lecture for the Center for Black Studies. We drove him to the lecture and had a warm visit, after not having seen him for some time. And though we emailed on James-related matters in the time since, I never saw him again.

In August of 1990, writing of the revised edition of his Race, Reform and Rebellion: The Second Reconstruction in Black America, 1945-1990, Marable left us these words:

"I hope that this slender reader, which presents some of the essential details of the African-American movement for human equality and political empowerment, will inspire members of the next generation to join a very long and rich tradition of resistance."

1 comment:

tyrone said...

Indeed--what a loss...