Saturday, May 7, 2011

Liar, Liar: Marable’s Misuse of FBI Files and Archival Records Raise Damning Issues About His Veracity, Malcolm X Biography

What red devil of mendacity
Grips your soul with such tenacity?
Will one you cruelly shower with lies
Put a pistol ball between your eyes?
  “The Liar” (1810) by William Blake.


In his undeservedly praised and best-selling biography of Malcolm X, the late Manning Marable deliberately misinterprets declassified FBI documents and archival records to malign Malcolm X and dozens of people close to the slain revolutionary.
  One of the individuals defamed in Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention is Alfred Balk who, like Marable, died shortly before the book was published.

 Were he alive today, I feel certain that he would have considered suing Marable and the whole lot connected to this debacle of a book for defamation.
    I hope that his children will learn about this posting and demand a written and public apology from Viking Press, Marable’s publisher, on behalf of their father. African Americans owe Balk a great debt, not the type of scorn that Marable dumps on him.
  A highly respected journalist, Balk achieved national attention in July 1962 after the Saturday Evening Post published his exposé  of a scheme by Chicago real estate agents to exploit African Americans through the age-old practice of “blockbusting.”
  The scam essentially involved causing wholesale evacuations of white neighborhoods in Chicago by starting rumors of a black “invasion.” Once the first house sold to a black, other white homeowners would sell for next to nothing. The new black owner was outlandishly overcharged, leading to as much as a 73 percent profit on some home sales. Before long, the entire neighborhood went from white to black.
   Balk was able to expose the nefarious fraud by feigning sympathy with the speculators, and in doing so, gaining their confidence. They fell for it, and he nailed them. His methodology is brilliantly described by Beryl Satter in Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America. Satter’s father helped Balk to expose the illegal scheme (see page 113).

   Since Balk had used the “confidence man” technique to great effect in the real estate exposé , he employed a similar "I understand you guys" approach for an investigative piece he was working on with Alex Haley, a young African American writer who had been studying the Nation of Islam for years. Marable interprets this as evidence that Balk was an FBI informant.
   In 2005, when Marable was publicizing his upcoming book Living Black History,  he appeared on “Democracy Now!” with Amy Goodman.
    During an interview on the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X, Marable accused both Haley and Balk of being informants.

MANNING MARABLE: Okay. The—most people who read the autobiography [of Malcolm X] perceive the narrative as a story that now millions of people know, and it was—it’s a story of human transformation, the powerful epiphany . . .  Well, that’s the story everybody knows. But there’s a hidden history. You see, Malcolm and Haley collaborated to produce a magnificent narrative about the life of Malcolm X, but the two men had very different motives in coming together.
  Malcolm did—what Malcolm did not know is that back in 1962, a collaborator of Alex Haley, fellow named—a journalist named Alfred Balk had approached the FBI regarding an article that he and Haley were writing together for The Saturday Evening Post. . . So consequently, a deal was struck between Balk, Haley and the FBI. that the FBI provided information to Balk and Haley in the construction of their article.

 Goodman seemed suspicious of Marable’s allegation, so she pressed him on it.

AMY GOODMAN: Did Alex Haley know about this relationship?
MANNING MARABLE: There is no direct evidence that Haley sat down with the FBI Nevertheless, since Balk was the co-author of the piece and it was Balk who talked directly with the FBI—
AMY GOODMAN: Did Haley know
MANNING MARABLE: One can assume that Haley was involved in it.
AMY GOODMAN: Did Haley at least talk to Balk about—did he know about Balk’s relationship with the FBI?
MANNING MARABLE: One can assume that Haley did because Haley and Balk co-authored the piece, traveled throughout the United States together and collected material together to form an article that they co-authored. It would be highly unlikely that Haley did not know.
[parenthetical selections were made by this author]

   That’s akin to saying that a man always knows when his wife is cheating on him because he’s married to her.   
I was unaware of the interview until Canadian author Malcolm Azania contacted me for comment in May 2005. I knew instantly that Marable was prevaricating because I had obtained Haley’s FBI file in 1982 under the Freedom of Information Act. My response then was the same as it is today: Marable’s claim was a lie and he knew it.

   Karl Evanzz, a leading Malcolm X scholar and the author of The Judas Factor: The Plot to Kill Malcolm X and The Messenger: The Rise and Fall of Elijah Muhammad, is far less forgiving than [A. Peter] Bailey.  . . “It’s the old guilt-by-association attack.
 He’s basically saying that if one writer had been compromised, then both had been, which I think is pretty far-fetched. It reminds me of McCarthyism.... It’s a really a cheap shot to say that Alex Haley was an informant based upon the fact that a co-writer was feeding information to the FBI, even if that’s true.... [Marable] found nothing to say that Haley was freely exchanging information about Malcolm with the FBI.”

   When Marable appeared on the same program exactly two years later, he got the dates of this alleged conspiracy between Haley, Balk and the FBI all wrong. He also escalated his lies.

  AMY GOODMAN: What about the missing three chapters? We’ve talked about it on this broadcast before. But talk more about Alex Haley, and talk about the FBI.
MANNING MARABLE: In late 1961, Alex Haley and white journalist Alfred Balk were approached by the Chicago office of the FBI to funnel misinformation that was critical of the Nation of Islam into a magazine article that would be read nationwide. They did so. It was called "The Black Merchants of Hate," published in the Saturday Evening Post in late February 1962. In effect, Haley played the role of a misinformation agent of the FBI. Ironically, since the article said the Nation of Islam hates white people, they think they’re devils, and they don’t want anything to do with integration, Elijah Muhammad loved the article. He thought it was great. And so, that helped to create that bridge that led several months later to Malcolm and Haley negotiating an agreement where they would write an autobiography together.
     His confusion about the date is curious since his book mentioning Balk’s approaching the FBI had been out for less than a year. What is most disturbing, however, is how he went from speculating that Haley was an informant in 2005 to out rightly declaring him as such two years later.

    I donated nearly all of the declassified files that I received from the FBI to the Moorland Spingarn Research Center at Howard University nearly a decade ago. I retained copies of some documents, however, two of which just happen to focus on Haley’s problems with the FBI.
   The Bureau tried to compromise Haley repeatedly in the late 1950s and even beyond the assassination of Malcolm X. The FBI files on Haley not only contradict Marable’s claim that Haley was compromised, but in fact show just the opposite.
   Haley had become so enamored of Malcolm X and black nationalism that he was actually offering Elijah Muhammad suggestions on how the group could improve its nation-building efforts by converting more college-educated African Americans.
   In one of the so-called “reference” files on Alex Haley, there is a document from the Phoenix file on the Nation of Islam. The document describes a wiretapped conversation between Elijah Muhammad and an unidentified individual
    It offers proof of something Haley would say later, that his conversations with Malcolm X and Muhammad were the reason he ended up writing Roots.
    The conversation was recorded on January 22, 1963, when a Muslim called to get Muhammad’s reaction to the just published Saturday Evening Post issue of January 26 containing “Black Merchants of Hate” by Balk and Haley.
   The caller asked Muhammad whether he has seen the Haley/Balk piece.


   “Yes I did. It was by this man who wrote once before . . . They write –   and he says – he is kind of with us himself – and he says that the FBI put  that charge on our savior. . .


     One could argue, of course, that perhaps Muhammad is under the impression that Haley admires the Nation of Islam. Similarly, one might argue that Haley was pretending to admire the NOI in order to seduce information from Muhammad.
   But Haley’s own words about the influence of the NOI on his decision to trace his heritage belie these suggestions.
   Moreover, other wiretapped conversations show that Haley was indeed interested in offering constructive ideas to Muhammad. In fact, Haley had begun introducing Muhammad to gifted African Americans who might help Muhammad achieve his goal of black self-sufficiency in the United States.
     This is buttressed by a document in the FBI’s ELSUR (electronic surveillance) file on Alex Haley. The following synopsis is based on a recorded conversation between Muhammad and Haley on June 1, 1963.
   Haley had called to discuss the progress on the Autobiography of Malcolm X. Muhammad is called Eli in the transcript, but I am changing it to Elijah for clarity.


   Elijah then stated that his followers included men of every field of vocations. He added that they have a shortage of certain fields of work but believed in time this would be overcome. Haley then mentioned a Negro who is in charge of Douglas Aircraft designing [a] new  jet in Long Beach, California. Elijah commented  that this man’s ability was being used by the white. Haley mentioned a man named [redacted] who he wants Elijah to meet.
  Haley [seems to be] gaining Elijah’s confidence as they leave front room and walk toward the car.”

  Haley routinely offered Muhammad advice on how to fortify the NOI.
  After showing Muhammad the proposed book contract for the autobiography ( Malcolm X had told him that doing the book depended upon Muhammad’s approval), Haley points out how valuable his national spokesman is to promoting the Nation of Islam's programs.
    As Muhammad reads it, Haley notes that the book is having a profound impact upon him personally, and that he strongly believes it will have enormous impact on well-educated African Americans.

  He [Haley] points out that if Malcolm had not been efficient in his work . . . that Elijah’s movement would not have “gotten off the ground.”   Haley mentioned that this is the first piece of work he has completed in which he has poured his inner self, his personal feelings, and he is confident that he can reach not only the intellectual Negroes but also the whites.


    As Haley predicted, the Autobiography of Malcolm X has influenced generations of African Americans and even whites. Scores of young blacks (including this writer) decided to pursue law not so much because they were keenly interested but because Malcolm X had his dream of becoming a lawyer deferred by a white racist teacher.
    They chose similar fields with the idea of one day using their skills to make a black nation. A prime example of that is Minister Abdul Alim Muhammad, an NOI member who is also a physician working in the poorest part of Washington.

   Marable’s allegations about Haley were scurrilous when he made them in 2005. He knew they were not true, but the mainstream media never challenged him. Since he got away with sham scholarship then, he figured he could get away with sham scholarship about Malcolm X.
     He should have known better. The mainstream media may embrace his wretched mess of a biography, but the people who admire Malcolm X and who respect black history will never mistake such shoddy merchandise as the “real McCoy” (who was black, by the way).
    One might be forgiving were this the sole instance where Marable mangles the truth in Reinvention. Unfortunately, it is one of a multitude.
   Marable also implies that Malcolm X used pseudonyms in the Autobiography in order to conceal an alleged homosexual encounter and other misdeeds.
 But here is what Marable himself wrote in the Winter 2005 edition of Souls, a journal he founded in 1999


    Doubleday’s corporate papers are now housed there. This collection includes the papers of Doubleday’s then–executive editor, Kenneth cCormick, who had worked closely with Haley for several years as the Autobiography had been constructed. . .  These Haley letters of marginalia contained some crucial, never previously published intimate details about Malcolm’s personal life. They also revealed how several  attorneys retained by Doubleday closely monitored and vetted entire sections of the controversial text in 1964, demanding numerous name changes, the reworking and deletion of blocks of paragraphs, and so forth.

                [author’s emphasis)


So who, really, is the liar? Marable is, that’s who.
  He imputed sinister motives to Malcolm X where none existed. He did the same to Haley, Balk, and many others in what reads like a fancy cut-and-paste job.
  No publisher in its right mind – Marable’s publisher being the exception – would print defamatory material about a living individual unless they wanted a libel lawsuit against them.
   This is what Viking has done. It accuses at least two people of committing adultery, yet it offers no documentation to back it up. It calls a man a “murderer” (a legal term) even though the man has never been accused, let alone convicted, of homicide.
   I have said it once and I say it again: if a publisher printed those kinds of lies about me, I would sue them for every penny that the book earns.
 This kind of irresponsible scholarship deserves to be punished, and a whopping expensive lawsuit is the best prophylactic that comes to mind.

Note: This article and the accompanying graphics may be reproduced without prior consent from the author.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Nation of Islam's Founder Was Afghani; Suffered from Diabetes

“When you believe in things you don’t understand, you suffer.”

From Superstitious, by Stevie Wonder


How Wali Fard Became Wallie Ford

An old newspaper photograph and a World War I draft card prove conclusively that the FBI was correct about the true identity of the founder of the Nation of Islam (NOI).

Wallace D. Fard Muhammad – worshiped within the NOI and some offshoots as the literal incarnation of God – was in fact the same man known before the creation of the NOI as Wali Dodd Fard and Wallace Dodd Ford and before that, Fred Dodd.

Based on a World War I draft card on file at the National Archives (and available now on and elsewhere), Fard gave his name as “Wallie Dodd Fard.” However, the clerk who registered him or another individual at the draft board put the name “Ford” in parenthesis, apparently thinking the spelling was in error or that Fard was mispronouncing his own name.

Fard had only been in America for four years at the time he registered for the First World War draft. The signature on the card is also “Wallie Dodd Fard.”

The FBI discovered from field interviews that Fard’s skills in reading and writing English were very poor. This was true of many immigrants during the early part of the twentieth century, of course.

The FBI's search for Fard’s true identity began in the late 1950s due to concerns about the skyrocketing growth of the NOI after Malcolm X became the sect’s national ambassador. Membership grew exponentially over a seven-year period beginning in 1956.

A former wife told FBI agents in the late 1950s that she routinely wrote letters for Fard. They were addressed to his uncle who lived in New Zealand.

Dated June 15, 1917, the draft card lists Fard’s place of birth as the Shinka region of Afghanistan. Shinka is misspelled. The town, actually spelled Shinkay, is located in Zabul Province.

In The Judas Factor (Thunder’s Mouth Press: 1992), I concluded (Chapter 10: Exposing Fard) that the FBI file on Wallace D. Fard contained credible information about the origins of the NOI founder. Despite the NOI’s belief that Fard was God incarnated, old editions of original Final Call newspaper describe him as “Prophet Fard Mohammed,” not Allah.

Orthodox Muslims condemn this as heresy. A prominent NOI member was threatened with death in the 1990s and given a warning to stop teaching that Fard was God in person. The orthodox group backed off over fears of a bloodbath between them and members of the Nation of Islam.

In The Messenger: The Rise and Fall of Elijah Muhammad (Pantheon: 1999) I speculated that Fard was from the Pakistan region because of the terminology he employed but also because of his surname.

Fard was a common surname among Pakistanis in the early 1900s.(Though not officially a state until 1947, the people retained their tribal identity and languages). The other telltale sign was Fard’s assertion that African Americans were originally members of the Tribe of Shabazz, and that they emanated from Mecca. Shabazz is an incorrect spelling of Shahbaz.

One of the holiest temples near Fard’s birthplace is Shahbaz Qalandar. It is named for Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar (1177–1274), the Sufi saint who was born in Marvand, Afghanistan.

Fard also renamed one of his first ministers – Elijah Muhammad’s brother – “Kallat Muhammad.” Qalat, as it happens, in the capital of Zabul Province. It borders Kandahar.

The Nation of Islam has long denied that Wallace Dodd Ford and Wali Dodd Fard were the same man. The draft card, interviews with his former wives, and a 1932 photograph in the Detroit Free Press prove beyond any doubt that my conclusions in The Messenger are correct.

Solving the Riddle

The FBI started to unravel Fard’s hidden past when it interviewed one of his former wives. In January 1958, Hazel Evelsizer told the FBI that she formed a common law marriage with Wallace Dodd Ford in 1920. They had a son the same year whom they christened Wallace Dodd Ford Jr. He was killed on August 3, 1942 while serving in the US Coast Guard at Linhaven Roads, Virginia, according to his mother.

While placing clean clothing in her husband's dresser drawer one day, she found a letter addressed to “Fred Dodd” of Portland, Oregon. She found this odd because Ford told her that he lived in Portland prior to moving to Los Angeles. The couple lived in the home of a white family (the Bushings), according to the 1920 Census for Los Angeles County.

The FBI used this information to trace Ford back to Oregon. There, they found a divorce petition filed by Fred Dodd against Pearl (aka Pearle) Allen Dodd. The divorce petition, which is available from the Multnomah County archives, reveals that Dodd married the 18-year-old Native American in 1914. Her name appears on the marriage license and divorce petition as Pearle or Pearl Allen, but Native American census records show that her tribal surname was Enouf.

According to the petition, Dodd wanted a divorce after less than a year of marriage because his wife was a “habitual drinker.” Dodd, who neither drank nor smoked, operated a “lunch wagon” that brought in a hefty income. He was saving money to buy a home, but he accused his wife of wasting their savings on alcohol and travel.

Dodd’s occupation was significant since Wallace Dodd Ford operated a restaurant in Los Angeles. Moreover, Wallace D. Fard Muhammad impressed early members of the Nation of Islam with his culinary skills. Many NOI members said that the diet he recommended and his ban on pork and alcoholic beverages improved their health and even saved lives.

Few NOI members knew that Fard had other reasons besides religion to adhere to a strict diet. According to Nathaniel Muhammad, one of Elijah Muhammad’s sons, Fard was diabetic.

“He used to carry packs of sugar in his [suit coat] pocket,” the son told NOI historian Lance Shabazz during a phone interview. Nathaniel said he was working on a book that would reveal things he remembered from the two years that Fard was close to his family. He also mentioned that Fard’s hands bled easily, and that the NOI founder often wore gloves to confine its flow (go to Youtube and search for Episode 159 of the “Lance Shabazz Show”). Some types of diabetes result in a lack of sensation in the extremities (fingers, toes), resulting in undetected cuts and injuries.

Nathaniel Muhammad long ago rejected the claim of Fard’s divinity, he said, and gave his reasons.

“He told you his birthday was 1877,” he says at the beginning of Part 4. “February 26.”

“Now that couldn’t be God. God was not born. . . So let’s be realistic about it.”

He urged NOI members to give Fard credit for the work that he did, but to reject bogus claims that Fard was divine because Fard “never said he was a god.”

Four Photos:

There are only four known photographs of Wali D. Fard Muhammad, the last name used by the NOI’s founder before leaving the group in 1934. His departure sparked a violent feud between Elijah Muhammad and his brother Kallat. According to limited records, Kallat wanted to continue teaching that Fard was a prophet. Elijah Muhammad, however, elevated Fard to the godhead and began calling himself the “seal of the prophets.” The feud, Elijah Muhammad wrote in several books, became so intense that he and his family had to hide from Kallat’s group for fear of being killed.

When Kallat fell ill in the late 1930s, Elijah Muhammad called it divine chastisement, proof that his brother was not the natural leader of the NOI.

The earliest photo is a mug shot from 1926, when Fard was arrested on drug charges. The second photo is a mug shot showing Fard after arriving at San Quentin. His head is partially shaven.

The third photo is the Detroit Free Press picture of Fard in the custody of two detectives following the arrest of Robert Smith, a Black Muslim who killed an acquaintance as part of a plan to offer four “human sacrifices” to “my God.”

The fourth and last photo is also a mug shot. It was taken on May 25, 1933 by the Detroit Police Department. News had spread of other planned sacrificial murders, so prominent black residents of Detroit demanded that the city take action. Fard was given the option of leaving town or going to jail.

He returned to Hazel Dodd in Los Angeles. After a few weeks, Fard told her that he was returning to New Zealand. As far as anyone knows, he was never heard from again.

NOTE: A fuller description of the early years of the Nation of Islam will be offered in a book being published next year by a European scholar and teacher. She has provided the following information:

Race, Islam and the Quest for Freedom: A history of the Nation of Islam

By Dawn-Marie Gibson

(April 2012)

Praeger Books

Also see:

Note: This column and accompanying materials may be copied and republished without prior consent from the author with the following caveats.

1. There can be no altering of text and no material altering of images.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

PAPER TIGER: Manning Marable's Poison Pen

BOOK REVIEW by Karl Evanzz
note: Please feel FREE to copy and republish AS IS only; no editing.

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention

Manning Marable

Viking (April 4, 2011)


Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention is an abomination. It is a cavalcade of innuendo and logical fallacy, and is largely “reinvented” from previous works on the subject.

It may serve as grounds for at least two defamation actions. The publisher would do well to consider recalling the book and issuing an apology for two reasons: a man labeled an “alleged murderer” has never been formally accused or convicted of that crime, and a woman mentioned by name is accused of committing adultery 46 years ago. As such, there is virtually no way to verify the allegation.

Marable, who died on April 1, takes cheap shots at Malcolm X, Malcolm’s parents, Betty Shabazz, Malcolm’s siblings, and almost anyone with a familial nexus to Malcolm X.

Its official release on the 43rd anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is symbolic because this book amounts to an assassination of Malcolm X’s character. Marable’s friends dare to call this his “magnum opus.” To use street vernacular, this ain’t his magnum nothin’.

It is merely the logical culmination of a life spent in the ivory tower writing books of scant interest beyond the tower walls. If the so-called public intellectuals praising the book were Marable’s true friends, they might have at least apprised him of the hostile tone and the lack of vetting on key allegations, the central one being Malcolm X’s alleged homosexual affair. The media ran with this allegation without checking its validity.

Malcolm X, Marable claims, “falsely attributed” his own sexual encounters with an older white male to a friend named “Rudy (p. 66).”

“Based on circumstantial but strong evidence, Malcolm was probably [emphasis supplied] describing his own homosexual encounter with Paul Lennon. The revelations of his involvement with Lennon produced much speculation about Malcolm’s sexual orientation.”

Speculation by whom? Marable, that’s who.

There are four footnotes for this page, but none substantiates this scurrilous assertion, one that would be grounds for libel were either party alive. The claim is juxtaposed by dozens of pages relating to Malcolm’s maturation into selling drugs, pimping (including white women), burglary, and other crimes. If you look at the mug shot – the first in a pallid 16-page photo section – you see the face of a thug you do not want to tangle with.

Moreover, there is nothing in Malcolm X’s far superior work to suggest that there was any touching of genitalia, let alone oral or anal sodomy. In fact, Malcolm X’s autobiography clearly shows (in the chapter titled “Caught”) how amusing he found the strange things that made white “johns” reach orgasm. One man, he wrote, ejaculated by sitting outside a bedroom door listening to a black couple making whoopee.

Nor does Marable offer proof that the employer was homosexual, bisexual, or asexual. The only logical conclusion from the facts is that the man had unusual recreational habits. Marable offers no proof that the man didn’t pay women to pour powder on him from time to time, for example, or that anyone employed by the man was homosexual. His proffer is a want ad for a male secretary. The ad ran twice over a three-day period in one newspaper on one occasion.

Another example of logical fallacy here is the one used to denigrate Malcolm X’s father, Earl Little Sr., who is accused of bigamy.

“Earl abandoned his young wife and children . . . He did not bother to get a legal divorce,” he writes (p. 16).

Marable cites other authors to support this claim, but none of them establishes that he checked court records to confirm this allegation. He offers nothing to show that he conducted a court search for the divorce record.

On the opening page of Chapter One, Marable writes: “In 1909, he married a local African-American woman, Daisy Mason, and in quick succession had three children: Ella, Mary, and Earl, Jr.”

Notice the problem? Marable neglects to inform us of the exact date that the couple married in 1909 and whether the marriage was done legally or by common law. Again, his notes show no indication that he searched court records for a marriage license. Did Marable know the date of the marriage?

If they were not legally married, Earl had no legal obligation to file for divorce. As such, Marable’s condescending tone – he did not bother – shows his contempt not only for Malcolm but for Malcolm’s father as well. The real sin here is that Marable fails to show that he bothered to check for a marriage license or a divorce filing.

He uses similar tactics to malign Ella Little – the woman who fired one of his key sources – describing her as “belligerent,” “paranoid” and “reckless.” While he tries to countenance his charge by citing a psychiatric evaluation, Marable knows full well that psychiatrists routinely employed such terms to describe supporters of Marcus Garvey. Their reasoning was simple: any black person who rejects America has to be crazy.

In the preface, Marable boasts that his book will “reconstruct the full contours of his remarkable life” (p. 14), and proceeds to contrive the most mean-spirited biography of Malcolm X in two decades.

The footnotes reflect heavy reliance upon people who were known enemies of Malcolm X. An earlier biographer used anonymous sources for some of his controversial claims, which was bad. Marable gives no source for some of the tabloid-type allegations, which is a million times worse.

According to Marable, Malcolm was having an extramarital affair with one of his secretaries, an affair that lasted until his death. Keep in mind that Malcolm knew by early 1965 that he was under constant surveillance by the FBI as well as by members of the Nation of Islam. How do we know? Because Malcolm X said so repeatedly in speeches and his posthumous memoir:

“Elijah seems to know every move I make,” Haley quotes him (Epilogue) saying in the final days of his short life. On February 16, Malcolm X told Haley: “I have been marked for death in the next fives days. I have the names of five Black Muslims who have been chosen to kill me. I will announce them at the meeting.”

On February 21, five Black Muslims killed him while his wife and four little girls watched in horror.

FBI files show that agents worked in eight-hour shifts to keep Malcolm under around-the-clock surveillance in weeks prior to his death. Malcolm told Haley and others that he would see them watching him as they took notes while he left his house, as he went to the drugstore to get a newspaper, and as he went to his office. FBI documents confirm his suspicions.

Note further that Black Muslims were threatening to kill him to prevent him from testifying in a Los Angeles paternity case filed against Elijah Muhammad by two of his teenage secretaries.

With those kinds of stressors, an extramarital affair the night before he died seems highly unlikely, and he certainly would not have chosen a teenage girl at a time when he was scheduled to testify against Black Muslim leader Elijah Muhammad for doing the same thing.

After claiming that Betty Shabazz had an affair with one of Malcolm’s assistants guarding his family (p. 394), Marable alleges that Malcolm X pursued yet another extramarital relationship.

He also claims that Malcolm met with Alex Haley on February 20 to discuss their joint book project, took Betty to a friend’s house for her to spend the night, and then rented a cheap hotel room where he “may have” had the teenage secretary as a bed-warmer (p 423).

By that logic, he may have met with Olive Oyl, Bluto, and Popeye that night as well.

There are numerous published accounts from those close to Malcolm that he was near his breaking point by then. Black Muslims had bombed his home on Valentine’s Day because Malcolm refused to move out of the house pending a judgment over its ownership.

Marable claims that the same teenager who was romantically involved with Malcolm the night of February 20th showed up at the Audubon Ballroom the next day. She sat in the front row next to a man whose name would later appear in FBI documents related to the assassination.

The teenager, Marable writes, and the Newark mosque official now “live together in the same New Jersey residence, and [name deleted] has maintained absolute silence about her relationship with both Malcolm X and [name deleted]” (p. 452).

The source given for this allegation is Abdur-Rahman Muhammad. When I asked Muhammad for his sources, he declined comment.

Despite the obvious lack of due diligence, Marable spares no opportunity to praise his own ingenuity and tenacity.

After years [my emphasis] of research,” he writes in “Life Beyond the Legend,” “I discovered that several chapters had been deleted [from the biography] prior to publication – chapters that envisioned the construction of a united front of Negroes led by the Black Muslims.”

Yeah, and Columbus “discovered” America.

The word “years” has to be a typographical error. Surely he means after minutes of research.

This is from the front page of the Life section of USA Today:

“MEMORIES FOR SALE: A manuscript of Alex Haley's first book, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, sold for $ 100,000 at an auction to settle claims against the late author's estate. The buyer was Detroit entertainment lawyer Gregory Reed, who also paid $ 21,500 for three deleted chapters of the book.” [my emphasis]

The date of the story? October 2, 1992.

The story ran in practically every major newspaper and black magazine in the next two months. Any college student could have signed on to Nexis or other news databases and found that in five minutes or less. A Google search for “Malcolm X,” “autobiography,” and “missing chapters” generated more than 4,000 hits on April 5.

As a former professional researcher (I worked in the news research department of The Washington Post for more than a decade), I immediately recognized Marable’s fraud, one of many in this pedestrian publication.

The late professor uncovers no significant new material, yet he has the chutzpah to dismiss with a flick of his wrist earlier books about Malcolm’s life and assassination:

In reading “all [emphasis supplied] of the literature about Malcolm produced in the 1990s, I was struck by its shallow character and lack of original sources (p. 490).”

When I began reading Chapter 7, I felt like I was revisiting my biography of Elijah Muhammad. It deals with marital discord between Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad and Clara Muhammad. The chapter’s first four pages read like a “reinvention” of chapters from The Messenger, published by Pantheon Books in 1999. I checked the footnotes for those four pages and noticed that seven of the first ten cite The Messenger as the source (p. 521).

Why didn’t Marable use the original source material? He makes no mention of the FBI’s national and Chicago files on Clara Muhammad.

Marable has two primary arguments: (1) the intelligence community and the New York Police Department deliberately ignored serious threats against Malcolm’s X life, and (2) there is overwhelming evidence that the five assassins came from the Nation of Islam’s Newark mosque.

That’s it.

His first argument is based upon research in my first book, The Judas Factor: The Plot to Kill Malcolm X, published in November 1992. His second argument – and the one that the media chose to ignore for the past two decades – is based upon the research of Zak Kondo of Baltimore City Community College. Conspiracys: Unraveling the Assassination of Malcolm X (1993) is without question the most authoritative examination of the mechanics of the assassination.

Marable had hundreds of thousands of dollars at his disposal for more than a decade. He had over twenty researchers at his disposal. Given far less capital and manpower, both David J. Garrow and Taylor Branch separately produced three-volume works of encyclopedic detail on Malcolm’s contemporary, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Despite his acknowledgments of gratitude to other prominent researchers and benefactors, Marable’s book is a single volume with questionable documentation.

Poor exposition and inexcusable typographical errors taint the book. When I communicated with Marable last June regarding a statement obtained from Linward X Cathcart by New York police after the assassination, his reply referred to “Linwood” Cathcart. I advised him of the misspelling and cautioned him to check his manuscript for the mistake.

One of his assistants replied under his name and told me that Marable dictated his responses for her to relay. She blamed herself for misspelling the name and assured me that the book had the proper spelling. There are two references to Cathcart’s full name in the book, and both times the name is spelled Linwood (p. 5, 452). It is also misspelled in the index.

In the prologue, Marable describes Malcolm X’s memoir as a “cautionary tale about human waste and the tragedies produced by racial segregation (p. 9).”

Human waste? As in feces and urine?

“No man has more accurately described and analyzed the existential, political, social, moral and spiritual plight of a victimized people than has Malcolm X in this book,” an objective reviewer wrote about the Autobiography of Malcolm X.

A Life of Reinvention, by contrast, is immediately forgettable. It was written by a chronic pen pusher who lived a rather unremarkable middle class existence but nonetheless implies that Malcolm X was an amateur this or a mediocre that.

“I’m the man you think you are,” Malcolm X said. Malcolm X was at the top of the class in school, on top of the hustling game during his hoodlum years, and a hell raiser in prison. He was national spokesman for a black organization that barely functioned before he joined in 1952. He was, finally, a revolutionary known and respected by other prominent revolutionaries – Fidel Castro, Ben Bella, and Che Guevara, to name a few.

He was, in short, a black panther of a man. By contrast, Marable was just another paper tiger.


Karl Evanzz is the author of three books, including an investigative look at the assassination of Malcolm X. He is the coauthor of Dancing with the Devil with hip-hop artist Mark Curry. His next book will be published in May.