I miss this man terribly. In light of the lack one single worthwhile Black leaders in today’s racial climate, we need Minister Malcolm X more than ever, his wisdom and his guidance.
Malcolm X Assassinated. February 21, 1965, New York City, NY.
In New York City, Malcolm X, an African American nationalist and religious leader, is assassinated by rival Black Muslims while addressing his Organization of Afro-American Unity at the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights.
Born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1925, Malcolm was the son of James Earl Little, a Baptist preacher who advocated the black nationalist ideals of Marcus Garvey. Threats from the Ku Klux Klan forced the family to move to Lansing, Michigan, where his father continued to preach his controversial sermons despite continuing threats. In 1931, Malcolm’s father was brutally murdered by the white supremacist Black Legion, and Michigan authorities refused to prosecute those responsible. In 1937, Malcolm was taken from his family by welfare caseworkers. By the time he reached high school age, he had dropped out of school and moved to Boston, where he became increasingly involved in criminal activities.
In 1946, at the age of 21, Malcolm was sent to prison on a burglary conviction. It was there he encountered the teachings of Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam, whose members are popularly known as Black Muslims. The Nation of Islam advocated black nationalism and racial separatism and condemned Americans of European descent as immoral “devils.” Muhammad’s teachings had a strong effect on Malcolm, who entered into an intense program of self-education and took the last name “X” to symbolize his stolen African identity.
After six years, Malcolm was released from prison and became a loyal and effective minister of the Nation of Islam in Harlem, New York. In contrast with civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X advocated self-defense and the liberation of African Americans “by any means necessary.” A fiery orator, Malcolm was admired by the African American community in New York and around the country.
In the early 1960s, he began to develop a more outspoken philosophy than that of Elijah Muhammad, whom he felt did not sufficiently support the civil rights movement. In late 1963, Malcolm’s suggestion that President John F. Kennedy‘s assassination was a matter of the “chickens coming home to roost” provided Elijah Muhammad, who believed that Malcolm had become too powerful, with a convenient opportunity to suspend him from the Nation of Islam.
A few months later, Malcolm formally left the organization and made a Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, where he was profoundly affected by the lack of racial discord among orthodox Muslims. He returned to America as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz and in June 1964 founded the Organization of Afro-American Unity, which advocated black identity and held that racism, not the white race, was the greatest foe of the African American. Malcolm’s new movement steadily gained followers, and his more moderate philosophy became increasingly influential in the civil rights movement, especially among the leaders of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee.
On February 21, 1965, one week after his home was firebombed, Malcolm X was shot to death by Nation of Islam members while speaking at a rally of his organization in New York City.
Malcolm X (/ˈmælkəm ˈɛks/; May 19, 1925 – February 21, 1965), born Malcolm Little and also known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Arabic: الحاجّ مالك الشباز), was an African-American Muslim minister and a human rights activist. To his admirers he was a courageous advocate for the rights of blacks, a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its crimes against black Americans; detractors accused him of preaching racism and violence. He has been called one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history.
Malcolm X was effectively orphaned early in life. His father was killed when he was six and his mother was placed in a mental hospital when he was thirteen, after which he lived in a series of foster homes.
In 1946, at age 20, he went to prison for larceny and breaking and entering. While in prison he became a member of the Nation of Islam, and after his parole in 1952 quickly rose to become one of its leaders. For a dozen years he was the public face of the controversial group; in keeping with the Nation’s teachings he espoused black supremacy, advocated the separation of black and white Americans and scoffed at the civil rights movement’s emphasis on integration.
By March 1964, Malcolm X had grown disillusioned with the Nation of Islam and its leader Elijah Muhammad. He ultimately repudiated the Nation and its teachings and embraced Sunni Islam. After a period of travel in Africa and the Middle East, he returned to the United States to found Muslim Mosque, Inc. and the Organization of Afro-American Unity. While continuing to emphasize Pan-Africanism, black self-determination, and black self-defense, he disavowed racism, saying, “I did many things as a [Black] Muslim that I’m sorry for now. I was a zombie then … pointed in a certain direction and told to march”.
In February 1965, shortly after repudiating the Nation of Islam, he was assassinated by three of its members. The Autobiography of Malcolm X, published shortly after his death, is considered one of the most influential nonfiction books of the 20th century.
On February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was preparing to address the Organization of Afro-American Unity in Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom when someone in the 400-person audience yelled, “Nigger! Get your hand outta my pocket!” As Malcolm X and his bodyguards tried to quell the disturbance, a man rushed forward and shot him once in the chest with a sawed-off shotgun; two other men charged the stage firing semi-automatic handguns. Malcolm X was pronounced dead at 3:30 pm, shortly after arriving at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. The autopsy identified 21 gunshot wounds to the chest, left shoulder, arms and legs, including ten buckshot wounds from the initial shotgun blast.
One gunman, Nation of Islam member Talmadge Hayer (also known as Thomas Hagan) was beaten by the crowd before police arrived; witnesses identified the others as Nation members Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson. All three were convicted in March 1966 and sentenced to life in prison. (At trial Hayer confessed, but refused to identify the other assailants except to assert that they were not Butler and Johnson; in 1977 and 1978 he reasserted their innocence and named four other Nation members as participants in the murder or its planning.)
Butler, today known as Muhammad Abdul Aziz, was paroled in 1985 and became the head of the Nation’s Harlem mosque in 1998; he maintains his innocence. In prison Johnson, who changed his name to Khalil Islam, rejected the Nation’s teachings and converted to Sunni Islam; released in 1987, he maintained his innocence until his death in August 2009. Hayer, today known as Mujahid Halim, was paroled in 2010.
The public viewing, February 23–26 at Unity Funeral Home in Harlem, was attended by some 14,000 to 30,000 mourners. For the funeral on February 27, loudspeakers were set up for the overflow crowd outside Harlem’s thousand-seat Faith Temple of the Church of God in Christ, and a local television station carried the service live.
Among the civil rights leaders attending were John Lewis, Bayard Rustin, James Forman, James Farmer, Jesse Gray, and Andrew Young. Actor and activist Ossie Davis delivered the eulogy, describing Malcolm X as “our shining black prince”:
There are those who will consider it their duty, as friends of the Negro people, to tell us to revile him, to flee, even from the presence of his memory, to save ourselves by writing him out of the history of our turbulent times. Many will ask what Harlem finds to honor in this stormy, controversial and bold young captain—and we will smile. Many will say turn away—away from this man, for he is not a man but a demon, a monster, a subverter and an enemy of the black man—and we will smile. They will say that he is of hate—a fanatic, a racist—who can only bring evil to the cause for which you struggle! And we will answer and say to them: Did you ever talk to Brother Malcolm? Did you ever touch him, or have him smile at you? Did you ever really listen to him? Did he ever do a mean thing? Was he ever himself associated with violence or any public disturbance? For if you did you would know him. And if you knew him you would know why we must honor him.
Allegations of conspiracy
Within days, the question of who bore ultimate responsibility for the assassination was being publicly debated. On February 23, James Farmer, the leader of the Congress of Racial Equality, announced at a news conference that local drug dealers, and not the Nation of Islam, were to blame. Others accused the NYPD, the FBI, or the CIA, citing the lack of police protection, the ease with which the assassins entered the Audubon Ballroom, and the failure of the police to preserve the crime scene.
In the 1970s, the public learned about COINTELPRO and other secret FBI programs established to infiltrate and disrupt civil rights organizations during the 1950s and 1960s. John Ali, national secretary of the Nation of Islam, was identified as an FBI undercover agent. Malcolm X had confided to a reporter that Ali exacerbated tensions between him and Elijah Muhammad, and that he considered Ali his “archenemy” within the Nation of Islam leadership. Ali had a meeting with Talmadge Hayer, one of the men convicted of killing Malcolm X, the night before the assassination.
Some, including the Shabazz family, have accused Louis Farrakhan of involvement in Malcolm X’s assassination, and in a 1993 speech Farrakhan seemed to acknowledge the possibility that the Nation of Islam was responsible:
Was Malcolm your traitor or ours? And if we dealt with him like a nation deals with a traitor, what the hell business is it of yours? A nation has to be able to deal with traitors and cutthroats and turncoats.
In a 60 Minutes interview that aired during May 2000, Farrakhan stated that some things he said may have led to the assassination of Malcolm X. “I may have been complicit in words that I spoke”, he said. “I acknowledge that and regret that any word that I have said caused the loss of life of a human being.” A few days later Farrakhan denied that he “ordered the assassination” of Malcolm X, although he again acknowledged that he “created the atmosphere that ultimately led to Malcolm X’s assassination.”
No consensus on who was responsible has been reached.
Farrakhan admits to Malcolm X assassination
Malcolm X’s Daughter Exposes Farrakhan (The Extended Clip)
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan admits in a 60 Minutes interview and reported on CBS Evening News that his incendiary rhetoric played a role in the 1965 assassination of civil rights leader Malcolm X.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X
The Autobiography of Malcolm X was published in 1965, the result of a collaboration between human rights activist Malcolm X and journalist Alex Haley. Haley coauthored the autobiography based on a series of in-depth interviews he conducted between 1963 and Malcolm X’s 1965 assassination. The Autobiography is a spiritual conversion narrative that outlines Malcolm X’s philosophy of black pride, black nationalism, and pan-Africanism. After the leader was killed, Haley wrote the book’s epilogue. He described their collaborative process and the events at the end of Malcolm X’s life.
While Malcolm X and scholars contemporary to the book’s publication regarded Haley as the book’s ghostwriter, modern scholars tend to regard him as an essential collaborator. They say he intentionally muted his authorial voice to create the effect of Malcolm X speaking directly to readers. Haley influenced some of Malcolm X’s literary choices. For example, Malcolm X left the Nation of Islam during the period when he was working on the book with Haley. Rather than rewriting earlier chapters as a polemic against the Nation which Malcolm X had rejected, Haley persuaded him to favor a style of “suspense and drama.” Haley’s proactive censorship of the manuscript’s antisemitic material significantly influenced the ideological tone of the Autobiography.
When the Autobiography was published, the New York Times reviewer described it as a “brilliant, painful, important book”. In 1967, historian John William Ward wrote that it would become a classic American autobiography. In 1998, Time named The Autobiography of Malcolm X as one of ten “required reading” nonfiction books. James Baldwin and Arnold Perl adapted the book as a film; their screenplay provided the source material for Spike Lee‘s 1992 film Malcolm X.
|Author||Malcolm X withAlex Haley|
|Published||1965 (Grove Press)|
The Autobiography of Malcolm X is an account of the life of Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little (1925–1965), who became a human rights activist. Beginning with his mother’s pregnancy, the book describes Little’s childhood in Michigan, the death of his father under questionable circumstances, and his mother’s deteriorating mental health that resulted in her commitment to a psychiatric hospital. Little’s young adulthood in Boston and New York City is covered, as well as his involvement in organized crime. This led to his arrest and subsequent eight- to ten-year prison sentence, of which he served six-and-a-half years (1946–1952). The book addresses his ministry with Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam (1952–1963) and his emergence as the organization’s national spokesman. It documents his disillusionment with and departure from the Nation of Islam in March 1964, his conversion to orthodox Sunni Islam, his pilgrimage to Mecca, and his travels in Africa. Malcolm X was assassinated in New York’s Audubon Ballroom in February 1965, before they finished the book. His co-author, journalist Alex Haley, summarizes the last days of Malcolm X’s life, and describes in detail their working agreement, including Haley’s personal views on his subject, in the Autobiography’s epilogue.
Leaving the Nation of Islam
On December 1, 1963, when he was asked for a comment about the assassination of President Kennedy, Malcolm X said that it was a case of “chickens coming home to roost“. He added that “chickens coming home to roost never did make me sad; they’ve always made me glad.” The New York Times wrote, “in further criticism of Mr. Kennedy, the Muslim leader cited the murders of Patrice Lumumba, Congo leader, of Medgar Evers, civil rights leader, and of the Negro girls bombed earlier this year in a Birmingham church. These, he said, were instances of other ‘chickens coming home to roost’.” The remarks prompted a widespread public outcry. The Nation of Islam, which had sent a message of condolence to the Kennedy family and ordered its ministers not to comment on the assassination, publicly censured their former shining star. Although Malcolm X retained his post and rank as minister, he was prohibited from public speaking for 90 days.
Another source of tension had appeared between Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad. There were rumors that Muhammad was conducting extramarital affairs with young Nation secretaries—which would constitute a serious violation of Nation teachings. After first discounting the rumors, Malcolm X came to believe them after he spoke with Muhammad’s son Wallace and with the women making the accusations. Muhammad confirmed the rumors in 1963, attempting to justify his behavior by referring to precedents set by Biblical prophets.
Malcolm X had by now become a media favorite, and some Nation members were seeing him as a threat to Muhammad’s leadership. Publishers had shown interest in Malcolm X’s autobiography, and when Louis Lomax wrote his 1963 book about the Nation, When the Word Is Given, he used a photograph of Malcolm X on the cover and reproduced five of his speeches, but featured only one of Muhammad’s—all of which greatly upset Muhammad and made him envious.
On March 8, 1964, Malcolm X publicly announced his break from the Nation of Islam. He was still a Muslim, he said, but felt that the Nation had “gone as far as it can” because of its rigid teachings. He planned to organize a black nationalist organization to “heighten the political consciousness” of African Americans; he also expressed a desire to work with other civil rights leaders, saying that Elijah Muhammad had prevented him from doing so in the past.
Becoming a Sunni Muslim
At this time, several Sunni Muslims encouraged Malcolm X to learn about their faith, and soon he became a convert to Sunni Islam.
Pilgrimage to Mecca
In April 1964, with financial help from his half-sister Ella Little-Collins, Malcolm X flew to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, as the start of his Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca obligatory for every Muslim who is able to do so. However, he was delayed in Jeddah when his U.S. citizenship and inability to speak Arabic caused his status as a Muslim to be questioned. He had received Abdul Rahman Hassan Azzam‘s book The Eternal Message of Muhammad with his visa approval, and now he contacted the author. Azzam’s son arranged for his release and lent him his personal hotel suite. The next morning he learned that Prince Faisal had designated him a state guest, and several days later, after completing the Hajj rituals, Malcolm X had an audience with the prince.
Malcolm X later said that seeing Muslims of “all colors, from blue-eyed blonds to black-skinned Africans” interacting as equals led him to see Islam as a means by which racial problems could be overcome.
Malcolm X had already visited the United Arab Republic, Sudan, Nigeria, and Ghana in 1959 to make arrangements for a tour of Africa by Elijah Muhammad, and after his journey to Mecca, in 1964, he visited Africa a second time. He returned to the United States in late May and flew to Africa again in July. During these visits he met officials, gave interviews, and spoke on radio and television in Egypt, Ethiopia, Tanganyika, Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea, Sudan, Senegal, Liberia, Algeria, and Morocco. In Cairo, he attended the second meeting of the Organization of African Unity as a representative of the Organization of Afro-American Unity. By the end of this third visit he had met with essentially all of Africa’s prominent leaders, and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, and Ahmed Ben Bella of Algeria had all invited Malcolm X to serve in their governments. After he spoke at the University of Ibadan, the Nigerian Muslim Students Association bestowed on him the honorary Yoruba name Omowale (“the son who has come home”). He later called this his most treasured honor.
France and United Kingdom
On November 23, 1964, on his way home from Africa, Malcolm X stopped in Paris, where he spoke at the Salle de la Mutualité. A week later, on November 30, Malcolm X flew to the United Kingdom, and on December 3 took part in a debate at the Oxford Union Society. The motion was: “Extremism in the Defense of Liberty is No Vice; Moderation in the Pursuit of Justice is No Virtue”. Malcolm X argued for the affirmative, and interest in the debate was so high that it was televised nationally by the BBC.
On February 5, 1965, Malcolm X flew to Britain again, and on February 8 he addressed the first meeting of the Council of African Organizations in London. The next day he tried to travel to France, but was refused entry.
On February 12, he visited Smethwick, near Birmingham, where the Conservative Party had won the parliamentary seat in the 1964 general election. The town had become a byword for racial division after Conservative supporters used the slogan “If you want a nigger for your neighbour, vote Labour.” In Smethwick he compared the treatment of colored residents with the treatment of Jews under Hitler, saying: “I would not wait for the fascist element in Smethwick to erect gas ovens.”
Return to United States
After leaving the Nation of Islam and traveling internationally, Malcolm X addressed a wide variety of audiences in the United States. He spoke regularly at meetings held by Muslim Mosque, Inc., and the Organization of Afro-American Unity, and was one of the most sought-after speakers on college campuses. One of his top aides later wrote that he “welcomed every opportunity to speak to college students.” He also addressed public meetings of the Socialist Workers Party, speaking at their Militant Labor Forum.
Except for his autobiography, Malcolm X left no published writings. His philosophy is known almost entirely from the many speeches and interviews he gave from 1952 until his death. Many of those speeches, especially from the last year of his life, were recorded and have been published.
Beliefs of the Nation of Islam
Before he left the Nation of Islam in 1964, Malcolm X taught its beliefs. His speeches were peppered with the phrase “The Honorable Elijah Muhammad teaches us that…”. It is virtually impossible to discern whether Malcolm X’s personal beliefs at the time diverged from the teachings of the Nation of Islam. He later compared himself to a ventriloquist’s dummy who could only say what Elijah Muhammad told him.
Malcolm X taught that black people were the original people of the world, and that white people were a race of devils who were created by an evil scientist named Yakub. The Nation of Islam believed that black people were superior to white people, and that the demise of the white race was imminent. When questioned concerning his statements that white people were devils, Malcolm X said: “history proves the white man is a devil.” “Anybody who rapes, and plunders, and enslaves, and steals, and drops hell bombs on people… anybody who does these things is nothing but a devil.”
Malcolm X said that Islam was the “true religion of black mankind” and that Christianity was “the white man’s religion” that had been imposed upon African Americans by their slave-masters. He said that the Nation of Islam followed Islam as it was practiced around the world, but the Nation’s teachings varied from those of other Muslims because they were adapted to the “uniquely pitiful” condition of black people in America. He taught that Wallace Fard Muhammad, the founder of the Nation, was Allah incarnate, and that Elijah Muhammad was his Messenger, or Prophet.
While the civil rights movement fought against racial segregation, Malcolm X advocated the complete separation of blacks from whites. The Nation of Islam proposed the establishment of a separate country for African Americans in the southern or southwestern United States as an interim measure until African Americans could return to Africa. Malcolm X suggested the United States government owed reparations to black people for the unpaid labor of their ancestors. He also rejected the civil rights movement’s strategy of nonviolence, instead advocating that black people should defend themselves
After leaving the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X announced his willingness to work with leaders of the civil rights movement, though he advocated some changes to their policies. He felt that calling the movement a struggle for civil rights would keep the issue within the United States, while changing the focus to human rights would make it an international concern. The movement could then bring its complaints before the United Nations, where Malcolm X said the emerging nations of the world would add their support.
Malcolm X argued that if the government was unwilling or unable to protect black people, they should protect themselves, and said that he and the other members of the Organization of Afro-American Unity were determined to defend themselves from aggressors, and to secure freedom, justice and equality “by whatever means necessary”.
Malcolm X stressed the global perspective he gained from his international travels. He emphasized the “direct connection” between the domestic struggle of African Americans for equal rights with the independence struggles of Third World nations. He said that African Americans were wrong when they thought of themselves as a minority; globally, black people were the majority.
In his speeches at the Militant Labor Forum, which was sponsored by the Socialist Workers Party, Malcolm X criticized capitalism. After one such speech, when he was asked what political and economic system he wanted, he said he didn’t know, but that it was no coincidence the newly independent countries in the Third World were turning toward socialism. When a reporter asked him what he thought about socialism, Malcolm X asked whether it was good for black people. When the reporter told him it seemed to be, Malcolm X told him, “Then I’m for it.”
Although he no longer called for the separation of black people from white people, Malcolm X continued to advocate black nationalism, which he defined as self-determination for the African-American community. In the last months of his life, however, Malcolm X began to reconsider his support for black nationalism after meeting northern African revolutionaries who, to all appearances, were white.
After his Hajj, Malcolm X articulated a view of white people and racism that represented a deep change from the philosophy he had supported as a minister of the Nation of Islam. In a famous letter from Mecca, he wrote that his experiences with white people during his pilgrimage convinced him to “rearrange” his thinking about race and “toss aside some of [his] previous conclusions”. In a conversation with Gordon Parks, two days before his assassination, Malcolm said:
- Brother, remember the time that white college girl came into the restaurant—the one who wanted to help the [Black] Muslims and the whites get together—and I told her there wasn’t a ghost of a chance and she went away crying? Well, I’ve lived to regret that incident. In many parts of the African continent I saw white students helping black people. Something like this kills a lot of argument. I did many things as a Black Muslim that I’m sorry for now. I was a zombie then—like all [Black] Muslims—I was hypnotized, pointed in a certain direction and told to march. Well, I guess a man’s entitled to make a fool of himself if he’s ready to pay the cost. It cost me 12 years.
- That was a bad scene, brother. The sickness and madness of those days—I’m glad to be free of them.
Up until one week before his death, Malcolm X continued to publicly advocate that black people should achieve advancement “by any means necessary”.
Malcolm X has been described as one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history. He is credited with raising the self-esteem of black Americans and reconnecting them with their African heritage. He is largely responsible for the spread of Islam in the black community in the United States. Many African Americans, especially those who lived in cities in the Northern and Western United States, felt that Malcolm X articulated their complaints concerning inequality better than the mainstream civil rights movement did. One biographer says that by giving expression to their frustration, Malcolm X “made clear the price that white America would have to pay if it did not accede to black America’s legitimate demands.”
In the late 1960s, increasingly radical black activists based their movements largely on Malcolm X and his teachings. The Black Power movement, the Black Arts Movement, and the widespread adoption of the slogan “Black is beautiful” can all trace their roots to Malcolm X.
In 1963 Malcolm X began a collaboration with Alex Haley on his life story, The Autobiography of Malcolm X. He told Haley, “If I’m alive when this book comes out, it will be a miracle”, and indeed, Haley completed and published it some months after the assassination.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was a resurgence of interest in his life among young people. Hip-hop groups such as Public Enemy adopted Malcolm X as an icon, and his image was displayed in hundreds of thousands of homes, offices, and schools as well as on T-shirts and jackets. This wave peaked in 1992 with the release of the film Malcolm X, an adaptation of The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
In 1998 TIME named The Autobiography of Malcolm X one of the ten most influential nonfiction books of the 20th century.
Malcolm X Assassin – Pt. 1
Malcolm X Assassin – Pt. 2
Malcolm X Assassin – Pt. 3
WHO KILLED MALCOLM X?
MALCOLM X: WHY I LEFT THE NATION OF ISLAM
MALCOLM X: WE DIDN’T LAND ON PLYMOUTH ROCK
Filed under: Politics | Tagged: African American, African Methodist Episcopal Church, Assassination of Martin Luther King, Back-to-Africa movement, Bean pie, Betty Shabazz, Elijah Muhammad, Jr., Malcolm X, Nation of Islam, United States | 6 Comments »