The Assassination of Malcolm X


Civil rights leader Malcolm X took the stage at the Audubon Ballroom in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan on February 21, 1965. Just minutes later, shortly after 3 p.m., the former prominent Nation of Islam figure was gunned down by three men as his wife, Betty Shabazz, pregnant with twins, and four daughters took cover in the front row. He was 39.

Motive and Background

Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska on May 19, 1925, was the civil rights era‘s most notable advocate of Black nationalism. Rising through the ranks of the Nation of Islam, he left the political and religious group in 1964, following a deeply strained relationship with leader Elijah Muhammad over political ideology (Malcolm believed the Nation of Islam should join in civil rights protests), as well as morals (he also was distressed to learn Muhammad had fathered several children by multiple women). Deepening the rift, when Malcolm called the assassination of President John F. Kennedy “chickens coming home to roost,” Muhammad silenced him for 90 days.


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