Columbia professor Manning Marable spent 20 years working on a groundbreaking biography of Malcolm X but died yesterday, just three days before its release. Scholars who have read Marable's Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention say it presents the most definitive look yet at the black nationalist leader's legacy, reports the New York Times. The most controversial part says law-enforcement authorities "stood back" rather than investigate death threats because they viewed Malcolm X as a dangerous extremist; the book also says two men were wrongly convicted of his killing, while four others involved went free.
Marable obtained thousands of pages of FBI and CIA files while researching his magnum opus. Among other things, he argues that Malcolm X exaggerated his criminal career in an attempt to show that the Nation of Islam could redeem even the worst criminals. He also says Malcolm X had far more doubts about religion and politics than was portrayed in the popular autobiography written with Alex Haley. Says Marable's editor: "His every fiber was devoted to the completion of this book. It’s heartbreaking he won’t be here on publication day with us.” The 60-year-old died of long-standing medical problems. (Read more civil rights stories.)