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The Dead Are Arising
Cover of The Dead Are Arising
The Dead Are Arising
The Life of Malcolm X
by Les Payne
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WINNER — 2020 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR NONFICTION • TIME Magazine — 10 Best Nonfiction Books of 2020 • A New York Times Notable Book of 2020 and Editors' Choice Selection • Best Books of 2020: NPR, Washington Post, Library Journal, Chicago Public Library • Excerpted in The New Yorker • Longlisted — Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction • Best Books of Fall 2020 — O, the Oprah Magazine, The Week, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

An epic biography of Malcolm X finally emerges, drawing on hundreds of hours of the author's interviews, rewriting much of the known narrative.

Les Payne, the renowned Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative journalist, embarked in 1990 on a nearly thirty-year-long quest to interview anyone he could find who had actually known Malcolm X—all living siblings of the Malcolm Little family, classmates, street friends, cellmates, Nation of Islam figures, FBI moles and cops, and political leaders around the world. His goal was ambitious: to transform what would become over a hundred hours of interviews into an unprecedented portrait of Malcolm X, one that would separate fact from fiction.

The result is this historic biography that conjures a never-before-seen world of its protagonist, a work whose title is inspired by a phrase Malcolm X used when he saw his Hartford followers stir with purpose, as if the dead were truly arising, to overcome the obstacles of racism. Setting Malcolm's life not only within the Nation of Islam but against the larger backdrop of American history, the book traces the life of one of the twentieth century's most politically relevant figures "from street criminal to devoted moralist and revolutionary."

In tracing Malcolm X's life from his Nebraska birth in 1925 to his Harlem assassination in 1965, Payne provides searing vignettes culled from Malcolm's Depression-era youth, describing the influence of his Garveyite parents: his father, Earl, a circuit-riding preacher who was run over by a street car in Lansing, Michigan, in 1929, and his mother, Louise, who continued to instill black pride in her children after Earl's death. Filling each chapter with resonant drama, Payne follows Malcolm's exploits as a petty criminal in Boston and Harlem in the 1930s and early 1940s to his religious awakening and conversion to the Nation of Islam in a Massachusetts penitentiary.

With a biographer's unwavering determination, Payne corrects the historical record and delivers extraordinary revelations—from the unmasking of the mysterious NOI founder "Fard Muhammad," who preceded Elijah Muhammad; to a hair-rising scene, conveyed in cinematic detail, of Malcolm and Minister Jeremiah X Shabazz's 1961 clandestine meeting with the KKK; to a minute-by-minute account of Malcolm X's murder at the Audubon Ballroom.

Introduced by Payne's daughter and primary researcher, Tamara Payne, who, following her father's death, heroically completed the biography, The Dead Are Arising is a penetrating and riveting work that affirms the centrality of Malcolm X to the African American freedom struggle.

WINNER — 2020 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR NONFICTION • TIME Magazine — 10 Best Nonfiction Books of 2020 • A New York Times Notable Book of 2020 and Editors' Choice Selection • Best Books of 2020: NPR, Washington Post, Library Journal, Chicago Public Library • Excerpted in The New Yorker • Longlisted — Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction • Best Books of Fall 2020 — O, the Oprah Magazine, The Week, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

An epic biography of Malcolm X finally emerges, drawing on hundreds of hours of the author's interviews, rewriting much of the known narrative.

Les Payne, the renowned Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative journalist, embarked in 1990 on a nearly thirty-year-long quest to interview anyone he could find who had actually known Malcolm X—all living siblings of the Malcolm Little family, classmates, street friends, cellmates, Nation of Islam figures, FBI moles and cops, and political leaders around the world. His goal was ambitious: to transform what would become over a hundred hours of interviews into an unprecedented portrait of Malcolm X, one that would separate fact from fiction.

The result is this historic biography that conjures a never-before-seen world of its protagonist, a work whose title is inspired by a phrase Malcolm X used when he saw his Hartford followers stir with purpose, as if the dead were truly arising, to overcome the obstacles of racism. Setting Malcolm's life not only within the Nation of Islam but against the larger backdrop of American history, the book traces the life of one of the twentieth century's most politically relevant figures "from street criminal to devoted moralist and revolutionary."

In tracing Malcolm X's life from his Nebraska birth in 1925 to his Harlem assassination in 1965, Payne provides searing vignettes culled from Malcolm's Depression-era youth, describing the influence of his Garveyite parents: his father, Earl, a circuit-riding preacher who was run over by a street car in Lansing, Michigan, in 1929, and his mother, Louise, who continued to instill black pride in her children after Earl's death. Filling each chapter with resonant drama, Payne follows Malcolm's exploits as a petty criminal in Boston and Harlem in the 1930s and early 1940s to his religious awakening and conversion to the Nation of Islam in a Massachusetts penitentiary.

With a biographer's unwavering determination, Payne corrects the historical record and delivers extraordinary revelations—from the unmasking of the mysterious NOI founder "Fard Muhammad," who preceded Elijah Muhammad; to a hair-rising scene, conveyed in cinematic detail, of Malcolm and Minister Jeremiah X Shabazz's 1961 clandestine meeting with the KKK; to a minute-by-minute account of Malcolm X's murder at the Audubon Ballroom.

Introduced by Payne's daughter and primary researcher, Tamara Payne, who, following her father's death, heroically completed the biography, The Dead Are Arising is a penetrating and riveting work that affirms the centrality of Malcolm X to the African American freedom struggle.

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Awards-
About the Author-
  • Les Payne (1941–2018), born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was a Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative journalist and a former editor at Newsday. A founder of the National Association of Black Journalists, Payne also wrote an award-winning syndicated column.

Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    May 1, 2020

    In 1990, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Les Payne began working on a biography of Malcolm X that aimed to set the record straight on a significant figure in 20th century history. To that end, he interviewed all of Malcolm X's living siblings, plus Nation of Islam figures, FBI moles and cops, and political leaders worldwide. Upon Payne's death, daughter Tamara completed the biography, which is framed by her essays.

    Copyright 2020 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    July 1, 2020
    Comprehensive, timely life of the renowned activist and his circuitous rise to prominence. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Payne died in 2018, leaving it to his daughter, Tamara, to complete this book, on which he had been at work for 30 years. The catalyst was an introduction through a school friend to one of Malcolm X's brothers, who told him stories of young Malcolm Little (1925-1965) in childhood. Malcolm had grown up bookish and popular, even among the white children with whom he went to school in Michigan, but he also acted out during adolescence, a trajectory that ended behind bars. (The detectives who arrested him, appreciating the fact that, as one said, "He wasn't fresh at all," gave him a couple of packs of cigarettes.) While incarcerated, Malcolm experienced the intellectual reawakening that put him on the path to becoming a political activist and Muslim. Payne delivers considerable news not just in recounting unknown episodes of Malcolm's early years, but also in reconstructing events during his time as a devotee of Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad, in whom he believed "as deeply as his parents back in Michigan had believed in Jesus of Nazareth." One instance was a meeting with the Ku Klux Klan that Malcolm brokered, finding a sole bit of common ground in the fact that both groups abhorred the notion of mixed-race marriages. Indeed, as Payne writes, for a long time, Malcolm was a committed advocate of black separatism. It was only while on a hajj to Mecca, where he saw blond-haired, blue-eyed Muslims as devoted as he was, that he abandoned his former teachings and broke with the Nation. Payne's accounts of the consequences of that rupture and Malcolm's assassination at the hands of a "goon squad" with ties to the FBI and CIA are eye-opening, and they add a new dimension to our understanding of Malcolm X's last years. A superb biography and an essential addition to the library of African American political engagement.

    COPYRIGHT(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from July 27, 2020
    Pulitzer winner Payne (1941–2018) spent nearly 30 years researching and writing this monumental biography of human rights activist Malcolm X. Completed by his daughter and researcher, Payne’s richly detailed account is based on hundreds of interviews with Malcolm X’s family members, childhood friends, cellmates, allies, and enemies, and meticulously tracks his journey from Omaha, Neb., where he was born Malcolm Little in 1925, through his teenage pot dealing in East Lansing, Mich., and street criminal days in Boston and Harlem, to his emergence as the Nation of Islam’s “most gifted and successful proselytizer and demander of justice,” and his assassination in 1965. Along the way, Payne folds in incisive portraits of such major figures as Marcus Garvey, whose teachings on racial uplift Malcolm X’s parents followed; Moorish Science Temple leader Noble Drew Ali, whose follower, Fard Muhammad, founded the Nation of Islam; and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Payne also documents the radio dramas and jazz music Malcolm X listened to, reveals how a clandestine meeting with the Georgia Ku Klux Klan in 1961 contributed to his break from the Nation of Islam, and interviews two men wrongly imprisoned for his murder. The result is an extraordinary and essential portrait of the man behind the icon. Agent: Faith Childs.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from August 1, 2020
    As renewed calls for Black liberation fill the streets and the airwaves, what better time to review the legacy of one of the most influential proponents of Black independence, Malcolm X. Based on decades of interviews with family members, classmates, and associates, this monumental new biography was Les Payne's life work, completed by his daughter and fellow researcher Tamara after Payne's untimely death in 2018. So what distinguishes Payne's book from other Malcolm X biographies? Payne's Malcolm is less a revolutionary than part of a continuum of Black struggle, beginning with Malcolm's parents and their devotion to the Black uplift of Garveyism, through the myth-making of a gloriously exotic Black ancestry found in the Moorish Science movement, a precursor to the Nation of Islam (NOI). Malcolm was not the first in his family to discover the NOI, but his gift was in braiding the mystical, the spiritual, and the political into an unbeatable movement for Black dignity, self-sufficiency, and self-defense. Malcolm's NOI became a uniquely youthful, pan-African movement for global liberation, influencing the philosophy and demands of Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael, SNCC, CORE, and others who rejected respectability politics and assimilation. That same tension, between largely white-affiliated, accommodationist Black organizations like the NAACP and the radical actions of Black Lives Matter, is part of Malcolm's legacy.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2020, American Library Association.)

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