Black Intellectuals Remember Scholar-Activist Manning Marable

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By Hakim Hasan

Dr. Manning Marable, 60, a history and political science professor at Columbia University, died on Friday (April 1). His life as a scholar is beset by the tragic irony that his long-awaited biography, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, is scheduled to be published on Monday (April 4) by Viking Press. It is Dr. Marable’s lifelong work and, perhaps, his magnum opus.

Frederick C. Harris, the Director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University, was attending a conference in Chicago when he was reached for comment: “Manning had been working on the biography for two decades. He was a giant in the field of black studies and can never be replaced. Few have successfully fused their scholarship and their activism so successfully. He will be missed.”

Dr. Manning Marable was born in 1950 in Dayton, Ohio. He was an iconoclastic scholar in the field of African-American Studies. Dr. Marable’s  Marxist ideological bent, coupled with his social activism, made him an endearing figure, particularly among radical left wing activists and scholars. “He was an outstanding scholar of the black radical tradition,” said Barbara Foley, an English professor at Rutgers University—Newark.

Dr. Marable’s trademark afro, styled like Frederick Douglass, gave him a striking and unforgettable public persona.

Gerald Horne, a history professor at the University of Houston, reflected on what he characterized as Dr. Marable’s eternal legacy. “Manning was a towering intellectual and he had this ability to popularize socialist ideals and a transformational agenda,” Professor Horne said.

Barbara Ransby, a professor of African-American Studies and history at the University of Illinois at Chicago, elaborated on Dr. Marable’s  importance as a scholar: “Manning Marable was a colleague and friend for over 25 years. His unflinching and pioneering scholarship, progressive politics, and generous spirit have inspired a generation of activists and scholars of the Black experience and many others.”

Dr. Marable earned his doctorate from the University of Maryland in 1976.  After completing his doctoral work, he embarked on what seemed like a worldwind tour of academic appointments. He taught classes in political science, sociology, and history at Ohio State University, Colgate University, Tuskegee, Fisk, the University of Colorado and several other universities.

In 1993, he was offered a lucrative teaching position and the opportunity to create an institute for Black Studies at Columbia University. That same year, Dr. Marable founded and directed the Institute for Research in African-American Studies. He was also the Director of The Malcolm X Project, where he and other staff members at Columbia taught multimedia courses and seminars about Malcolm X.

Cedric J. Robinson, a Black Studies and political science professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, summarized Dr. Marable’s importance as a scholar and teacher. “Manning was a critical force in the establishment of Black Studies, enforcing in his students his integrity, dedication, and intelligence, “ he said. “I anticipate that his biography of Malcolm X will set an enduring mark for the intersection of his two disciplines, history and political science, “ Professor Robinson added.

Dr. Marable made his debut as a scholar with the publication of his book, From The Grassroots: Social and Political Essays Towards Afro-American Liberation, in 1980. However, he is probably best known for his seminal book, How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America, published in 1983.  In this work, Dr. Marable eschewed race as the sole causative factor in understanding the social plight of Black-Americans. He argued that class and capitalism were also major factors.

Altogether, Dr. Marable published over 200 scholarly articles and wrote and co-edited 22 books. He also wrote a nationally syndicated column called “Along The Color Line.”

Herb Boyd, a reporter for the New York Amsterdam News, remembered his first encounter with Dr. Marable at a conference in Ohio in 1983: “He was as gregarious and sociable as he was insightful about African-American history and culture. Like Du Bois, with whom he is often compared, Manning wanted to be the best, numero uno in Black scholarship, and it’s a shame that at the very precipice of that goal he’s gone.”

Dr. Marable is survived by Leith Mullings, his widow, who is also a Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the City University of New York Graduate Center, and their five children. The family has organized a private funeral service for Dr. Marable; however, there are also plans for a public memorial service to be held on May 27.

Hakim Hasan is a contributor to NewsOne. He can be reached at: hhasan2@aol.com.

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Scholar Manning Marable dies at 60

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