By Advocate.com Editors
Originally published on Advocate.com April 05 2011 2:10 PM ET
First Gandhi, now Malcolm X?
A new biography of African-American civil rights leader Malcolm X details his “early homosexual relationship with a white businessman,” among other things that he glossed over or ignored in his own accounts, reports The New York Times.
The biography, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, was published Monday by Viking Press, three days after the death of its author, Columbia University professor Manning Marable. It is in many ways a groundbreaking portrayal of Malcolm X, who was assassinated in 1965 at age 39, and differs greatly from his posthumously published Autobiography of Malcolm X.
“This book gives us a richer, more profound, more complicated and more fully fleshed out Malcolm than we have ever had before,” Michael Eric Dyson, an author and Georgetown University professor, told the Times. Marable’s biography reports, for instance, that Malcolm X may have exaggerated stories of his criminal activity before his conversion to Islam to make his tale of redemption more dramatic, and that while he embraced integration rather than racial separatism toward the end of his life, his political philosophy remained radical. The author also contends that two of the three men convicted of Malcolm X’s murder were innocent and that others were involved but not charged.
It is not the first source to report that Malcolm X had gay relationships, but it is a particularly high-profile one. U.K. LGBT rights activist Peter Tatchell, writer and professor Marc Lamont Hill, and Bruce Perry, who published a biography of Malcolm X in 1991, have also said he was gay or bisexual. (He eventually married a woman and fathered six children.)
The book comes shortly after the release of a new biography of Indian independence and human rights leader Mohandas Gandhi, Great Soul, which led Wall Street Journal reviewer Andrew Roberts to conclude that German architect Hermann Kallenbach was the love of Gandhi’s life. Author Joseph Lelyveld, however, has objected to Roberts’s interpretation, saying the relationship between Gandhi and Kallenbach was not physical. “I think you’ll find that at least I don’t suggest that it was bisexual,” Lelyveld told National Public Radio. He added that the conservative Roberts “used some of the material in the book to trash Gandhi, as I think he used the term ‘sexual weirdo.’”