Tagged: Betty Shabazz

Betty Shabazz, born Betty Dean Sanders on May 28, 1934, in Pinehurst, Georgia, emerged as a prominent civil rights advocate and educator in the 20th century. Her early years were marked by upheaval; she was sent to live with foster parents after facing difficulties with her own family. The foundation for her future activism was laid during her college years in New York City, where she was introduced to the teachings of the Nation of Islam (NOI).

It was within the NOI that she met Malcolm X. They married in 1958, beginning a partnership not just as husband and wife but also as comrades in the struggle for racial justice. Their union produced six daughters.

The 1965 assassination of Malcolm X was a traumatic turning point in Shabazz’s life. Devastated by her husband’s death and tasked with raising their children alone, she showcased remarkable resilience. She returned to school and began a journey to further uplift and educate her community.

Major Achievements:

  1. Education: After her husband’s assassination, Shabazz pursued higher education as a means of empowerment. She earned a master’s degree in public health administration from Jersey City State College and later a doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts.
  2. Advocate for Racial Justice: Shabazz carried the torch of her husband’s legacy, advocating for black empowerment, civil rights, and justice. She spoke passionately against racial inequality and sought to keep Malcolm X’s teachings alive for future generations.
  3. University Professor and Administrator: Shabazz became an esteemed educator. She served as an associate professor of health sciences at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York. Her work extended beyond teaching; she held administrative roles and was a trusted mentor to countless students.
  4. Bridge Builder: While initially aligned with the NOI’s teachings, after Malcolm X’s death and her pilgrimage to Mecca, Shabazz embraced Sunni Islam’s broader teachings. She worked tirelessly to bridge divides, both within the diverse Muslim community and between different racial and religious groups.
  5. Philanthropy: Shabazz was instrumental in establishing the Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center, located at the Audubon Ballroom, the site of Malcolm X’s assassination. This center serves as a testament to the couple’s lasting influence, promoting human rights and social justice.
  6. Role Model: As a single mother of six, Shabazz became a symbol of resilience, strength, and dignity for many, particularly black women. Her life story serves as a beacon of hope and determination in the face of adversity.

How did she die?

Betty Shabazz died as a result of severe burns sustained in a fire. The fire occurred on June 1, 1997, in her apartment in Yonkers, New York. Her grandson, Malcolm Shabazz, set the fire, reportedly as a call for attention, without realizing the dire consequences that would ensue.

Betty Shabazz was rescued from the fire and taken to the hospital with burns covering over 80% of her body. Despite the best efforts of medical professionals, the extent of her injuries proved too severe. She passed away on June 23, 1997, a few weeks after the incident.

The tragic nature of her death added another layer of sorrow to the legacy of the Shabazz family, which had already endured much hardship and loss. Malcolm Shabazz, who was 12 years old at the time of the incident, was later found guilty of manslaughter and arson and was sent to a juvenile detention facility.