WINNER • 2021 PULITZER PRIZE IN BIOGRAPHY • 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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Malcolm X’s story is a huge part of American history, but Les Payne felt the larger-than-life figure’s legacy was incomplete. So began the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative researcher’s nearly 30 years of study on the man born Malcolm Little, culminating in this in-depth biography, completed after Payne’s death by his daughter and chief researcher, Tamara Payne. We were stunned by the countless hours of interviews with Malcolm’s friends, family, comrades, and even cellmates that went into this incredible book. Small but vital anecdotes from his life give new depth to the image we know from Alex Haley’s The Autobiography of Malcolm X. In particular, the stories from his youth reveal that Malcolm’s path from small-time hustler to civil rights leader had early roots in his intensely politically active parents, who were followers of the ideas of Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey. Meticulously tracing how Malcolm’s character and beliefs evolved from childhood run-ins with the Ku Klux Klan to his subsequent meeting with the Nation of Islam founder Wallace Fard Muhammad, The Dead Are Arising gives us insights into Malcolm X we never even knew we were missing.
A comprehensive view of the life and times of Malcolm X
I loved this book, especially the way it is a great supplemental text to the Autobiography. Parts that weren’t included in Haley’s text show up here, giving us more insight into who Malcolm really was. I had a greater sense of his wit, more than anything else. Plus, one gets a more comprehensive view of his story in the context of his time.
The dead are arising
Excellent book. I hope this book gets on lots of required reading lists for American history courses.