Linward X Cathcart, a former minister in the Nation of Islam, has filed a $50 million lawsuit against the estate of the late Dr. Manning Marable, the author of “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention,” the book’s publisher, Viking Press, and Columbia University.
The lawsuit was filed through his lawyer, Mark Fury, in Newark federal court on May 19, on what would have been the 86th birthday of Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz).
According to the lawsuit, Marable, who died three days before the book was published, indicated in the work that Cathcart (who he called Linwood rather than Linward) “may have been involved” and possibly aided in the assassination of Malcolm X.
Moreover, the book suggested, “Malcolm appears to have begun an illicit sexual affair with an 18-year-old [secretary]” and Cathcart and Malcolm were involved with the same woman. That wom- an, Marable speculated, may have also spent the night with Malcolm at a hotel the day before he was assassinated on Feb. 21, 1965, at the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights.On page 452 of Marable’s book, it states, “After entering the Grand Ballroom on the afternoon of the assassination, Sharon 6X [the woman with whom Malcolm allegedly slept the night before he was assassinated] had sat in the front row next to Linwood X Cath- cart, an NOI member from New Jersey whose presence perturbed the MMI [Muslim Mosque Inc.] members who recognized him.
“The seating arrangement,” the book continues, “may have been a coincidence, but subse- quent evidence concerning Sha- ron and Cathcart makes this hard to believe. More than 40 years after the assassination, Cathcart and Sharon 8X Poole Shabazz live together in the same New Jerseyresidence, and Shabazz has maintained absolute silence about her relationships with both Malcolm X and Cathcart.”
Other than a continuation of the quote on the following page, and one other on page 5, there is no other mention of this in the book-and given the existence of other documented errors, the book is by no means infallible.
According to Fury, his client was the only person searched upon entering the Audubon that afternoon. “He was permitted a seat down front because of his close relationshipwith Malcolm,” Fury said, though the book states that Cathcart, upon being recognized by Malcolm’s security, was persuaded to sit at the rear of the ballroom.
“Within 24 hours of the shoot- ing,” Fury said, “Mr. Cathcart was among the first to be interviewed by the FBI. They found no evidence of his involvement. From that time to the present, no one has offered any basis for the scurrilous claims in Manning Marable’s book.”
Fury also contends that Marable deliberately ignored the fact that Cathcart and Poole were only associated through her rental of an apartment in his house, and that they were both married to other people. This was done, he said, with the purpose of presenting them as “an item…on the date of the murder.”
Before filing the lawsuit, Fury issued a perfunctory cease and desist order against the publishing company to stop publication of the book or retract the slanderous material. “Other than an appearance by them on radio con- cerning the cease and desist order, I haven’t heard from the publisher,” Fury told the Amsterdam News in a telephone interview Monday afternoon. The cease and desist orderwas sent prior to the filing of the lawsuit in order to avoid it having an impact on the settlement.
When Fury was asked how such a major publisher with a team of lawyers on hand could have failed to properly vet the book for legal liabilities, he summed it up as “a calculated economic decision…the sala- cious tidbits would spur sales and make a ton of money for Marable and the company.”
Calls to Viking Press were not returned.
Fury was also challenged on the supposition that Marable had kept the book on the shelf for 30 years. “This book hadbeen in progress long before he arrived at Columbia, and some of the graduate students under his tutelage can vouch for this,” Fury said. When asked, he clarified that he was referring to the book’s gestation period, not to a finished manuscript sitting during those years.
The diminishing of Malcolm X’s prominence and legend was comparable to his physi- cal reduction in the Madame Tussaud’s wax museum, Fury mused, “They have Malcolm standing at 5-feet-10 when he was well over 6 feet tall,” he asserted. Whether in statue or stature, he said, Malcolm X was being victimized.