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Late OSU professor wins Pulitzer Prize

With the 2012 Pulitzer Prize luncheon approaching, officials still haven’t determined who will receive the winnings of the late Manning Marable, former chair of the Department of Black Studies at Ohio State.

Marable, former chair of Ohio State’s Department of Black Studies, won the Pulitzer Prize for history for his book “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention.”

The award was announced April 16, just more than one year after Marable’s death April 1, 2011. Marable did not live to see his biography of Malcolm X published.

Marable was the Black Studies department chair from 1987-1989.

Horace Newsum, chair of the Department of African-American and African Studies and a associate professor in the department, said he was happy to hear of Marable’s win.

“I’m glad he won the Pulitzer Prize, because I was so worried about the reception of the book,” Newsum said.

Marable’s book received mixed reviews, partially because it included details of Malcolm X’s same-sex relations, which might have made some readers uncomfortable, Newsum said. However, Newsum also said that information was not new and has been used in other books about Malcolm X.

The book was the subject of the Annual Diversity Lecture held by the OSU Libraries’ Diversity and Inclusion Committee Feb. 21.

Hasan Kwame Jeffries, associate professor of African-American history, was the featured speaker at the lecture and was one reader who had mixed reactions about the book that led to Marable’s Pulitzer Prize.

“Marable, given his career contributions to history, African-American history in particular, and his service to his profession, is more than deserving of the award,” Jeffries said. “However, for this particular work, I was less enthusiastic, less excited, because it left me wanting more.”

At the lecture, Jeffries said the book “was a little bit disappointing, in that there is not much new revealed.”

Reactions like Jeffries’ left Newsum wishing Marable was alive to defend himself.

“I found myself feeling bad that he was not here to answer for himself,” Newsum said.

Newsum, who had known Marable personally from 1976 until his death in 2011, spoke highly of his friend as a person and as a writer.

“He would say, ‘Writing is my passion,'” Newsum said.

And that passion carried over into Marable’s personal relationships, Newsum said.

“He had a really good sense of humor. I liked being around Manning,” Newsum said. “He always had something to say that was worth hearing. You always went away feeling that you learned something.”

In the two years Marable spent as a department chair at OSU, Newsum said the Pulitzer Prize winner made lasting contributions to the university.

Newsum said Marable strengthened the leadership in the Department of Black Studies by making “important hires,” who were Ph.D. degree holders. Among Marable’s hires was Newsum and Lupenga Mphande, who remains the director of the African Languages Program. These hires were all part of Marable’s vision for the department, Newsum said.

“He thought the department should have strong scholars,” Newsum said. “He also wanted the department to have the image of being relevant, of being community oriented.”

Despite mixed reviews to a book Marable never lived to see published, the board of judges for the 2012 Pulitzer Prizes deemed that “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention” best fit the history category’s call for “a distinguished and appropriately documented book on the history of the United States.”

Pulitzer Prize awardees receive a certificate and a $10,000 cash award.

According to a representative from the Pulitzer office in Pulitzer Hall at Columbia University, Marable’s widow, Leith Mullings, will attend the Prize luncheon on May 21 on Marable’s behalf. The representative said further contact with Mullings will be necessary to determine where Marable’s winnings will go.


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