On Manning Marable

by kathleenljackson


I am attempting my first study of the historiographical study of the works of a historian.The obvious choice for me was Manning Marable. He, undoubtedly, has had the greatest influence on my thought process and writing style over the years. I was mildly aware of his work in the early stages of my history major but it wasn’t until I read Living Black History that he became instrumental to my development as a historian. The multidisciplinary approach of “living history” and the belief that you need to be vigilant against the whitewashing of history is a method I firmly believe in and can see as applicable to the many different oppressed people throughout the world, including my own background, Indigenous Australian.

I plan on looking at four of Marable’s major works (due to word constraints), How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America, Race, Reform, and Rebellion: The Second Reconstruction in Black America, 1945-1990, Living Black HIstory, and Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention. What has really struck me so far is that Dr Marable truly walked his talk. In his early works he lays out his beliefs as a socialist, as someone seeking to highlight the oppression and injustices of America, and as someone looking to and providing an alternative interpretation. His book, Living Black History, is almost a how-to guide to not only understanding African-American history but the power history has in changing the future. And his final work, Malcolm X is the embodiment of his life work. He writes what is, in his opinion, the truth, regardless of what is popular or set down in history using his own philosophy that we need an accurate picture of the past to work towards a better tomorrow. There is just something about that that I really respect.

Of course, I am young, idealistic and still have a million things to learn. I will probably even look back on this post and cringe in the future. But his assessment of America’s master narrative and the subsequent oppression of the African-American people has stayed with me and, I hope, it will continue to influence my work for years to come.