May 19th marks Malcolm X’s 90th birth anniversary. Black Prophetic Fire by Cornel West in dialogue with and edited by Christa Buschendorf reflects on six revolutionary African American leaders including Frederick Douglass, W.E.B.
Du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr., Ella Baker, Ida B. Wells and Malcolm X. It’s a thought provoking and engaging book presented in a conversational format between West and Buschendorf. Malcolm X is acknowledged to be one of the most controversial subjects of the book and his passionate rhetoric inspired some groups and distressed others. Here he is presented as an unintimidated leader who spoke with sincerity about self-respect and dignity, while never forgetting a history of violence and exploitation. Sincerity is a word that West repeats over and over – Malcolm X spoke with sincerity – Malcolm X told the truth. West speaks to the comparison that is often drawn between Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X. King is remembered with a sense of peace and gentleness while Malcolm X is often demonized. West contends that their beliefs were more similar than history sometimes recalls. Kirkus Review wrote “West has long advocated for the importance of the “organic intellectual,” one not afraid to come down from the ivory tower and mess with “grass-roots folk,” and he admires in these six figures their relentless truth-speaking and ability to inspire others to action. Indeed, Malcolm X’s parrhesia, or “fearless speech,” in expressing black rage is West’s ideal.”