Remembering Manning Marable

— Elizabeth Kai Hinton

[The numerous works of the late Manning Marable are listed at http://www.ranker.com/list/manning-marable-books-and-stories-and-written-works/reference. We will present a review of his study of Malcolm X in a coming issue. We’re pleased to present this brief tribute here. — The editors of Against the Current]

MALCOLM X HAS been getting quite a bit of the attention lately, especially with respect to A Life of Reinvention — and deservedly so — but as Professor Marable himself would tell you, no one shaped his intellectual development more than W.E.B. Du Bois.

While working as the Managing Editor of Souls at a time when Malcolm was at the forefront of his mind, I still got to hear Professor Marable rap on Du Bois during nearly all of our conversations about the journal (whose title is even a riff on Du Bois’s classic The Souls of Black Folk).

It didn’t matter if we were deciding which font to use or which symposium to organize, Professor Marable always found a way to remind both of us that when he started Souls some 13 years ago, he very consciously modeled it after Du Bois’s own Phylon.

Du Bois worked as the founding editor of Phylon at Fisk and Atlanta Universities during the Second World War. Like Souls, Phylon contained cutting-edge academic articles that offered critical interpretations of black American and Diasporic history, politics and culture, and showcased radical voices and methodologies.

Professor Marable always treated Souls as a living legacy of DuBoisian social and political theory, but as I wrestle with the void of him in my own life and work, and as I consider the implications of his scholarship now that he is no longer with us, increasingly I’ve come to think about Professor Marable as a living legacy of Du Bois himself.

In the spirit of Du Bois, Professor Marable continued to raise our collective historical consciousness in order to inspire political and social change. Both built institutions to sustain these sorts of critical interrogations, and to ensure that Black history would not be lost: Du Bois at the turn of the 19th century, holding a series of conferences in Atlanta that served as the foundation of black studies; Professor Marable at the turn of the 20th when he founded the Institute for Research in African-American Affairs at Columbia University.

They used the resources at their disposal shrewdly, and spoke to a range of audiences. While they helped build collective political movements — Du Bois of Pan-Africanism and Marable of the National Black Political Assembly — their enduring legacy in generating social change lies in the passionate and vast body of work they left for us to return to in their absence.

Groundbreaking books and essay collections aside, Du Bois’s editorials in The Crisis and Professor Marable’s “Along the Color Line” columns reached a general audience, providing historical context that allowed for a reinterpretation of current conditions in Du Bois’s post-Reconstruction context of Jim Crow and Marable’s post-Civil Rights context of Color Blind Racism.

Both eventually turned to academic journals as progressive vehicles, recognizing the importance of research as a means to transcend structural inequality. In line with their larger dedications, by editing Phylon and Souls Du Bois and Professor Marable could highlight intellectuals and activists marginalized elsewhere for their commitments to radical and progressive social visions.

Even though Professor Marable only made the parallels with respect to Souls, I see how his accomplishments and encouragement offered us a living legacy of Du Bois. And now, to some degree, all of us here are a living legacy of Professor Marable’s.

I am deeply honored to have worked with Professor Marable. I am thankful that he provided me with such strong model. I will miss him. And however we may define it for ourselves, it is up to us to carry Manning Marable’s legacy forward.

July/August 2011, ATC 153

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