Pluto Press is saddened to hear of the death of Manning Marable, a principled voice for black liberation, social justice and democracy. Marable was a prolific author, writing over 20 books, and a successful and influential academic at New York’s Columbia University. But he also never forgot his roots, and his duty as an intellectual to assist movements for social change.
As Lee Sustar writes in his obituary for the US Socialist Worker:
In an era when academia has became increasingly specialized and remote from everyday political concerns, Marable always sought to link his considerable academic output to the struggles of working people in general and African Americans in particular.
Even as he took the prestigious post as founding director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University–he later became professor of Public Affairs, Political Science, History and African-American Studies and the founder of the Center for Contemporary Black History–Marable continued to write a column distributed free of charge to Black-owned or -oriented newspapers.
As a speaker, Marable was anything but a dry academic. He often began his presentations by finding common ground with his audience, then drawing them into seeing the world from a new angle–raising questions, offering facts and pressing his case home with passion.
Visit the US Socialist Worker to read the article in full.
In his obituary for the Guardian Michael Carlson gives a vivid sense of how Marable linked his teaching to community concerns:
Under Marable, Columbia’s programme has been uniquely involved in the local black community in Harlem; he also taught in a master’s degree programme at Sing Sing Prison, and founded the Hip Hop Summit Action Network, aimed at using music to address social problems. A prolific essayist, Marable produced a weekly syndicated column, Along the Colour Line, which he also broadcast on radio stations across America.
Carlson also highlights how Marable was a voice of radicalism against more conservative voices in the black community, a critical approach which is more relevant today than ever under the Presidency of Obama:
Under the onslaught of free-market Reaganism, Marable’s radicalism was often at odds with more conservative black voices, at one point announcing that “the ‘We Have Overcome’ generation has run out of intellectual creativity but refuses to leave the political stage”. He claimed that “the crisis of black politics can only be resolved through the development of multiclass, multiracial, progressive political structures”, in effect arguing for a more socialist version of Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition.
Visit the Guardian to read the article in full.
An edition of Marable’s classic study How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America was published by Pluto Press in 2000 (the rights have now sadly reverted). Marable also published two titles with our friends in the US, Paradigm Publishers, W. E. B. Du Bois: Black Radical Democrat and The New Black Renaissance. Due for release in May, also with Paradigm, is Beyond Boundaries: The Manning Marable Reader, which brings together Marable’s best writings from the last two decades.
Together with his biography of Malcolm X, published just days after his death, these books are a great legacy and should inspire a new generation to follow Marable’s example – read, learn, question and try to make a change.
Black Radical Democrat
Updated edition of the definitive biography of Du Bois.
The Souls Anthology of Critical African American Studies
Edited by Manning Marable
Argues for a more radical and critical approach to Black Studies.
The Manning Marable Reader
Manning Marable, edited by Russell Rickford
Brings together Marable’s best writing from the last two decades.