The Dead Are Arising: Book summary and reviews of The Dead Are Arising by Les Payne

The Dead Are Arising

The Life of Malcolm X

by Les Payne

The Dead Are Arising by Les Payne X
The Dead Are Arising by Les Payne
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  • Published Oct 2020
    640 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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Book Summary

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.

32 pages of illustrations

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Book Awards

  • award image National Book Awards, 2020
  • award image Pulitzer Prize Winners, 2021

Reviews

Media Reviews

"[M]onumental...Completed by his daughter and researcher, Payne's richly detailed account is based on hundreds of interviews with Malcolm X's family members...an extraordinary and essential portrait of the man behind the icon." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Comprehensive...A superb biography and an essential addition to the library of African American political engagement." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"This gripping read delivers penetrating explanations and fresh insights into previously unexamined dimensions of Malcolm X and his becoming and being El-hajj Malik El Shabazz within the context of Black life. Highest recommendation." - Library Journal (starred review)

"Meticulously researched and masterfully reported, this chronicle offers fresh insights and disturbing revelations that, among other things, strengthen the case for government complicity in the murder of Malcolm X...A gripping read...[and] a worthy companion to Malcolm's famed autobiography." - Nathan McCall, author of Makes Me Wanna Holler: A Young Black Man in America

"The result of nearly three decades of investigative reporting, The Dead Are Arising is an essential new biography of one of the most compelling political figures of the twentieth century." - Jill Lepore, author of These Truths

"The Dead Are Arising...will become the definitive biography of Malcolm X." - Ray Winbush, director of the Institute for Urban Research at Morgan State

"A brilliant and indispensable depiction of the life of Malcolm X...Using the fruits of decades of interviews, [Payne] brings new information and perspectives on one of the most fascinating, and often misunderstood, figures in American history." - Annette Gordon-Reed, author of The Hemingses of Monticello, winner of the Pulitzer Prize

This information about The Dead Are Arising was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Les Payne

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.

Tamara Payne served as Les Payne's principal researcher. She lives in New York.

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