Malcolm X, also known as Malik Shabazz, was an African American Muslim leader and civil rights activist in the U.S.A. He was born in Omaha, Nebraska in May 1925 and...
Tagged: Malcolm X’s death
Malcolm X, an influential and polarizing figure in the civil rights movement, met a violent end on February 21, 1965, at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City. His death, just like his life, became a focal point for discussions on race, civil rights, and the future of America.
Malcolm X, originally named Malcolm Little, rose to prominence as a spokesman for the Nation of Islam (NOI), a religious movement that combined elements of traditional Islam with Black nationalist ideas. Under the leadership of Elijah Muhammad, the NOI propagated beliefs that white society actively worked to keep African-Americans from empowering themselves and achieving political, economic, and social success. Malcolm, with his oratory skills, became a significant proponent of the NOI’s message.
However, by the early 1960s, ideological differences between Malcolm X and senior NOI leaders began to surface. Malcolm grew disillusioned with Elijah Muhammad’s leadership, especially upon discovering his marital indiscretions, which ran counter to the NOI’s teachings. Furthermore, Malcolm’s international travels, including his pilgrimage to Mecca, broadened his perspective, making him more inclined towards orthodox Sunni Islam and promoting racial integration.
His break from the NOI was formalized in 1964 when he founded the Muslim Mosque, Inc. and later the Organization of Afro-American Unity. These organizations were designed to promote Black nationalism and unity but lacked the racial exclusivity of the NOI.
Assassination of Malcolm X
Tensions between Malcolm and the NOI escalated. He faced regular threats and intimidation. His house was firebombed just a week before his assassination, a clear signal of the danger he was in.
On February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was about to address a gathering at the Audubon Ballroom. As he stepped to the podium, a disturbance broke out in the crowd. As Malcolm’s bodyguards moved to address the situation, a man rushed forward and shot him with a sawed-off shotgun. Two other men charged the stage, firing handguns. Malcolm X was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at a nearby hospital. He was 39 years old.
Aftermath: Three men, all members of the Nation of Islam, were arrested for Malcolm X’s murder: Talmadge Hayer (also known as Thomas Hagan), Norman 3X Butler, and Thomas 15X Johnson. All three were convicted in 1966 and given life sentences. Hayer admitted his involvement but insisted that Butler and Johnson were innocent. Despite this, all three served lengthy prison terms. Butler and Johnson maintained their innocence until their respective deaths.
Malcolm X’s assassination highlighted the intense ideological warfare happening within the Black freedom movement in the 1960s. While figures like Martin Luther King Jr. advocated for non-violent resistance and integration, Malcolm X’s earlier message emphasized self-defense and Black separatism. Though his views began to shift towards the end of his life, Malcolm remained a symbol of the more radical side of the civil rights struggle.
Malcolm X’s death was not the end of his influence. His ideas, especially those from the latter part of his life, continued to inspire Black activists and thinkers. His emphasis on Black pride, self-sufficiency, and self-defense became central tenets for many during the Black Power movement of the late 1960s and 1970s.