The Dead Are Arising | Les Payne

Summary of: The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X
By: Les Payne


Delve into the riveting life of one of American history’s most complex and controversial figures, Malcolm X, in this comprehensive biography authored by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Les Payne and his daughter, researcher Tamara Payne. This summary takes you on a journey through his childhood, turbulent times, involvement with the Nation of Islam, and his transformation before his tragic assassination. Discover astonishing revelations such as Malcolm X’s meeting with the Ku Klux Klan, his shift in perspective after visiting the Middle East and Africa, and his moral struggles.

Payne’s Masterpiece on Malcolm X

Les Payne’s daughter Tamara Payne has masterfully completed her father’s work on Malcolm X, creating an illuminating biography that vividly portrays a complex and controversial American figure. Despite the abundance of new material, the narrative flows smoothly, giving insight into Malcolm X’s life, including his interactions with the Ku Klux Klan. Renowned publications such as Time and The Washington Post have praised this book’s poetic storytelling and essential contribution to understanding Malcolm’s story.

Malcolm Little’s Early Life

Earl and Louis Little moved to Omaha, Nebraska, as part of the Great Migration, where they had their son Malcolm Little. The Littles followed the racial-uplift ideas of Marcus Garvey and instilled in their children a strong sense of self-sufficiency and racial pride. After the Omaha lynching and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, the family moved to Michigan. When Malcolm was six, his father died in a supposed street-car accident, but he believed the Klan was responsible. After his father’s death, his mother was hospitalized, and Malcolm ended up living with a white family who owned a boarding house. Despite his troubled past, he began doing well in school, but a white teacher shattered his dreams with a racial slur. Malcolm dropped out and moved to Boston to live with a half-sister.

From Malcolm Little to Malcolm X

The Paynes relate the life of Malcolm Little, later known as Malcolm X, detailing how he got into crime and street-life in Boston and ended up being sentenced for burglary. It was in jail where he discovered the Nation of Islam, through which he found pride in his African roots and developed a belief in racial separatism. The authors explain how the group gave him a new name – Malcolm X – and how he saw knowledge as an essential tool for Black liberation.

Malcolm X’s Fight for Black Liberation

Malcolm X’s journey from a prison inmate to a charismatic minister with a separate Black state agenda is explored in “The Dead Are Arising” by Les Payne and Tamara Payne. Becoming the minister in the Nation of Islam’s Temples in Detroit and Harlem, Malcolm X garnered a significant following that sparked envy and suspicion among his peers. The book uncovers the FBI’s director, J. Edgar Hoover’s focus on Malcolm X’s movement due to its potential impact on white supremacy. In contrast to Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s peaceful protests, Malcolm X advocated for a separate Black state, a move that made him a controversial figure in American society.

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