The late Manning Marable never got a chance to see the publication of his controversial biography on civil rights leader Malcolm X, but the historical account lives on.
On April 15, Marable was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize in the history category for his 2011 release, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, according to the Associated Press.
The book was released just days after Marable, a renowned Columbia University African-American Studies professor, died from complications of pneumonia.
Marable’s piece, which he had worked on for decades, drew criticism upon its release primarily because it portrayed Malcolm X in a different light that was strikingly dissimilar to past biographies.
In the book, Marable asserted that X had exaggerated his early criminal career and may have been involved in a homosexual relationship. He also charged that some of the men responsible for X’s murder are still alive and were never charged.
Karl Evanzz, a former Washington Post writer who also penned a book on X, said in a book review that Marable’s account was an “abomination.”
“It is a cavalcade of innuendo and logical fallacy, and is largely reinvented from previous works on the subject,” he wrote, according to the Post.
But Melissa Harris-Perry, an associate professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University told NPR in 2011 that Marable’s work sets the precedent for future releases on the late civil rights leader’s life.
“Marable’s picture of Malcolm X is a profoundly flawed individual,” she said. “It’s an abrupt departure from the ‘heroic’ and ‘perfected’ visions of the African-American minister that were set in motion by The Autobiography of Malcolm X and perpetuated in American popular culture.”
Harris-Perry added that the release was also a clear call to action to re-examine X’s 1965 assassination.
“It was absolutely his intention to commit the process of…promoting the book primarily to the work of bringing pressure for the purpose of reopening the case,” she said.
Though Marable never got the chance to defend his work, it was later nominated for the National Book Award and The New York Times ranked it among the 10 Best Books of 2011.
This year’s other Pulitzer Prize winners were Quiara Alegria Hudes, John Lewis Gaddis, Tracy K. Smith, Stephen Greenblatt and Kevin Puts.
For the first time in 35 years, no fiction prize was awarded.