Manning Marable, 1950-2011


William Manning Marable was born on May 13, 1950 in Dayton, Ohio. A lifelong Marxist, Marable was a member of Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism and the Working Families Party.

 

Marable graduated from Earlham College in 1971, received a master's degree in American history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a PhD in American history from the University of Maryland. He taught at Cornell University, Fisk University, Colgate University, Ohio State University, and the University of Colorado before landing at Columbia University, where he became a professor of political science, history, and founding director of the Institute for Research in African American Studies and the Center for the study of Comtemporary Black History.

 

A prolific writer and impassioned polemicist, Marable addressed issues of race and economic injustice in numerous works that established him as one of the most forceful and outspoken scholars of African American history and race relations in the United States. He explored this territory in books like How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America (1983), Black Liberation in Conservative America (1997), The Great Wells of Democracy (2003), and in a political column, "Along the Color Line," which was syndicated in more than 100 newspapers.

 

Marable's political philosophy was often described as transformationist, as opposed to integrationist or separatist. That is, he urged black Americans to transform existing social structures and bring about a more egalitarian society by making common cause with other minorities and change-minded groups like environmentalists. "By dismantling the narrow politics of racial identity and selective self-interest, by going beyond 'black' and 'white,' we may construct new values, new institutions and new visions of an America beyond traditional racial categories and racial oppression," he wrote in the essay collection Beyond Black and White: Transforming African-American Politics (1995).

 

Scholar and author Cornel West called Marable "our grand radical democratic intellectual," adding, "He kept alive the democratic socialist tradition in the black freedom movement and I had great love and respect for him." At Columbia University, Marable was the founding director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies and the Center for the Study of Contemporary Black History.

 

His other books included Race, Reform and Rebellion; The Second Reconstruction in Black America, 1945-1982 (1984), as well as two biographies published in 2005, W.E.B. DuBois: Black Radical Democrat and The Autobiography of Medgar Evers, which he edited with Myrlie Evers-Williams. He was the general editor of Freedom on My Mind: The Columbia Documentary History of the African American Experience (2003).

 

In 1992 he published On Malcolm X: His Message and Meaning, a work that prefigured the consuming project of his later years. Beyond Boundaries: The Manning Marable Reader, a selection of his writings, was published in January by Paradigm. His life work, a biography Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, was released shortly after Marable's death.

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Compiled from tributes put together by [email protected].