Peter Morgan, Associated Press
NEW YORK — Two of Malcolm X's daughters are unhappy that a new biography alleges their parents' marriage was strained and that their mother — and possibly their father — was unfaithful.
"It (the marriage) was definitely faithful and devoted because my father was a man of impeccable integrity, and I think that most people, if they're not clear on anything, they're clear that he was moral and ethical and had impeccable character," Ilyasah Shabazz said Wednesday.
Ilyasah and Malaak Shabazz spoke to The Associated Press about "Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention." Author Manning Marable, a highly respected scholar who worked for more than 20 years on the book, died last week of complications of pneumonia just before the book's publication. The book has been in the top 10 on Amazon.com's best-seller list, and the print run has been increased from 46,000 to 70,000, according to Viking, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA).
While both sisters acknowledged they have yet to read the book, they questioned reports about the contents. Manning had intended "Malcolm X" as a tribute to the slain activist's life and influence, but he also wanted to avoid portraying him as "a saint, without the normal contradictions and blemishes that all human beings have," as the historian wrote in the introduction. Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965. His wife, Betty Shabazz, died in 1997 after one of her grandchildren set fire to her apartment.
The book alleges that parts of "The Autobiography of Malcolm X," a million-selling classic released after Malcolm X's death, were inaccurate. For instance, Manning questions details of Malcolm X's early life as a criminal, writing that Malcolm likely exaggerated his wrongdoings.
He also looks into Malcolm X's more controversial words and actions, including a meeting Malcolm X had with members of the Ku Klux Klan in the early 1960s. At the time, he was a high-ranking member of the Nation of Islam and had discussed with the Klan the possibility of the nation purchasing land for blacks to live on. Malcolm X would later express regret, although Manning still called the meeting "despicable."
Malcolm X married Betty Shabazz in 1958. They had six children, two of them, Malikah and Malaak, born after his death. According to the book, the marriage was often tense, in part because of Malcolm's wish to have a traditional, subservient Muslim wife and because he was away so often and his life was often threatened.
According to "Malcolm X," Betty became involved in 1964 with Charles Kenyatta, a close associate of Malcolm's. Manning writes that Malcolm, too, may have had affairs, although the evidence is uncertain.
Malaak Shabazz said there "may have been a little bit of stress, like any marriage," but that "there was really no times for shenanigans. She raised the children at home, he worked on a global level."
AP National Writer Hillel Italie contributed to this report.
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