Malcolm X was assassinated 47 years ago today, and his legacy somehow continues to be controversial both in mainstream America’s school of racial thought as well as within the black community. America has come around in celebrating Martin Luther King’s legacy but still views Malcolm’s life as an opposing existence, demonstrating a laziness in thinking about how to address race in America during the turbulent 1960’s and even today. Combine that with the popularization of his life story by Spike Lee’s 1992 film and Malcolm continues to be one of the most polarizing figures in black history.
Manning Marable’s 2011 biography of the leader Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention was the culmination of twenty years of research for Marable and opened up a new stream of debate over Malcolm’s dealings with the parties who may have been responsible for his assassination and his supposed homosexuality. Marable passed away just a few days after his work was published, so we’ll never get to fully question him on his methods, but it’s an interesting read that anyone interested in Malcolm X should check out.
Take a look at one of the few color clips featuring Malcolm, here appearing on a television show in Chicago called “City Desk” on March 17, 1963. Many of the ideas that he is defending to the interviewer, such as the idea of blacks celebrating our heritage and rejecting slave names, have become so commonplace now that it’s fascinating to remember who we have to thank for that.