Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Malcolm X: A Legend Emerges

It is a time for martyrs now, and if I am to be one, it will be for the cause of brotherhood. That’s the only thing that can save this country.”
Malcolm X
Malcolm X
These prophetic words were spoken by one of America ’s most famous and controversial African-Americans just two days before his assassination. His name was Malcolm X.
One could go deeply into the making of this man, born Malcolm Little. So many people, agencies, institutions and organizations have covered this portion of Malcolm X’s brief life on earth. A vast sea of in-depth analyses and biographies on his life and philosophies are available.
This story focuses on all of the facts, suspicions and theories surrounding the assassination of Malcolm X and the impact it has had on the world. Like the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, too, had a dream. It began bathed in the tenets of anger and hatred, fostering economic independence on the shoulders of retaliatory separatism. And it ended with the swelling acceptance of a unified brotherhood and the replacement of hatred with peace and of anger with the nagging thirst for international equality for all mankind.
Marcus Garvey founder of the UNIA
Marcus Garvey
Malcolm, the son of Louise and Reverend Earl Little, was born in Omaha, Nebraska on May 19, 1925. Earl Little was a Baptist minister and an active advocate of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). The Little family eventually moved to Lansing, Michigan where their house was mysteriously burned down. Rev. Little then built another house for his family, just outside of East Lansing. In 1931, right after an argument with his wife, Rev. Earl Little angrily walked out of the house. His lifeless body was later found on some streetcar tracks. His head had been severely bashed in and his torso almost cut in half by a streetcar. Authorities reported the death as a suicide, but the African-American community believed he was murdered by a white supremacist group.
Louise Little did all she could to take care of herself and her six children. Eventually the stress and strain got to her and in 1939 she was declared insane and institutionalized. Her children were placed in various foster homes. That same year, Malcolm’s teacher asked him what he would like to be. His answer was, “a lawyer.” The teacher, who had encouraged the white students on their career choices, told Malcolm, “that’s no realistic goal for a nigger.” Malcolm, a good student, quickly became disenchanted. He was placed in a detention home and then dropped out of school, having finished only the eighth grade.
Malcolm Little, AKA Malcolm X, at age 18, mugshot
Malcolm Little, AKA Malcolm X, at age 18, mugshot
After taking several odd jobs, Malcolm moved to Boston with his father’s sister. He was only fourteen years old and could only find an assortment of odd jobs. He finally landed a job with the New Haven Railroad, which shuttled between Boston and New York City, giving him an opportunity to meet many educated African-Americans. Malcolm was fired from this job and once again took on various odd jobs in New York and Boston, while also committing acts of petty larceny. After being caught and arrested for carrying a concealed weapon he was sentenced to prison. While serving more than six years he began educating himself, converted to the Islamic faith and became a Black Muslim in the Nation of Islam (NOI).

The Conversion of Ideas and Dreams

After his release in 1952, Malcolm Little, now known as Malcolm X, went to Detroit and began to actively preach to the frustrated African-American population about what Islam had to offer.  It made no difference where he conducted his sermons and teachings, whether on the streets, or in a temple.  He spread the word to anyone who would listen.  It was not long before Malcolm became a favorite of Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam.  He was made a minister and began to travel from city to city, preaching the message, founding new temples and converting thousands of people to the faith.  Two years later, Malcolm X became minister of Temple Number Seven in Harlem, New York.
Elijah Muhammad & bodygards
Elijah Muhammad & bodygards
 Malcolm X knew he was a marked man after the split with Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam (NOI).   He had formed the Muslim Mosque Incorporated (MMI) and made the comment that the NOI leaders “got to kill me.  They can’t afford to let me live ... I know where the bodies are buried.  And if they press me, I’ll exhume some.”
Malcolm then formed the OAAU (Organization of Afro-American Unity) and began “embarking on a course in opposition to the capitalist system,” according to Roland Sheppard in his The Assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.   Malcolm’s plans to create a “black nationalist party” integrated with his travels
throughout Europe, the Middle East, the UAR, and Africa where he readily exposed the oppression of African-Americans to the world through the United African Nationalist movement.   This was the last thing the U.S. government wanted since it would make the nation’s racial problems an international human rights issue.
In April of 1964, Malcolm X made a pilgrimage to Mecca which led to his second conversion.  He met brothers of the faith who were from many nations and of many races, black, brown, white, and all the sons of Allah.  The reality dawned on him that advocating racial cooperation and brotherhood would help resolve the racial problems in America and, hopefully, lead to a peaceful coexistence throughout the world.  Malcolm X’s transformed ideas and dreams reached full fruition and were ready for both national and international implementation.  Again he changed his name, this time to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz.  And again he found himself going against the system.  But this time he would not be alone in the fight for equality and justice.

A Time for Martyrs

It did not take long for the reactionaries to strike out at Malcolm X.  Members of the NOI resented what they thought were his attempts to supplant Elijah Muhammad.  Government entities feared his involving the NOI in international issues, as well as his starting to lean too far to the left, while law enforcement officials looked upon him and his actions as radical, criminal and detrimental to society.
Malcolm X
Malcolm X
 Early on the morning of February 14, 1965, Malcolm and his family were peacefully asleep in their home in Elmhurst, New York.  They were suddenly awakened by the sounds of shattering glass and explosions.  Several Molotov cocktails had been thrown through their living room window, engulfing the house in roaring flames.  Malcolm and his wife, Betty, quickly gathered their children and rushed out of the burning house.  Once safe, they stood outside in the cold air, watching as their home and possessions burned.  It was never determined who had tried to kill them, though Malcolm did tell authorities he thought it may have been the NOI.
The Audubon Ballroom was almost full on that cold February day in New York City.  Only the week before Malcolm had quickly ushered his family out of their firebombed house.  Nothing had gone right since then.  On the evening of September 20th, right after an OAAU business meeting, Earl Grant, a good friend, had asked Malcolm to spend the night at his apartment.  Malcolm expressed concern about the safety of his friend and his family, knowing that the dangers to him could impact those around him.  He gently refused Earl’s kind offer.
That next afternoon, over 400 followers of Islam crowded the ballroom, anxiously awaiting    the guest speaker, Brother Malcolm X.  No uniformed police were visible inside the Audubon, but two were stationed outside the entrance.  It was common knowledge that   an attempt on Malcolm’s life was a real possibility.  Several dozen police officers were across the street in the hospital, supposedly positioned there at Malcolm’s request because he thought their presence in front of the ballroom would create discomfort to those coming to hear him speak.  Malcolm’s wife, Betty Shabazz, later denied that her husband ever made such a request.  Malcolm always feared being assassinated and would not refuse protection.
Inside the Audubon Ballroom, several dark-suited NOI guards were positioned near the stage and towards the rear of the room.   As soldiers of the NOI, the militancy of the neatly dressed men was evident in their demeanor, as they surveyed the room, quietly watching the seating of late arrivals.
Malcolm X, his pregnant wife and their four children waited in an anteroom.  It was a tense and nervous Malcolm X who ordered two of his guards to take his family out into the hall to their seats in a box near the front of the stage.    Seemingly irritated and exhausted, Malcolm X mentioned to his aides that he had reservations about speaking.  They tried to get him settled down, without success.  Malcolm’s misgivings were reflected in his taut features as his restless eyes darted around the room toward the men.  He listened to brother Benjamin Goodman making the opening speech.  Getting to his feet, Malcolm waved away the men guarding him and forced a slight smile, Malcolm calmly waited backstage.
At approximately 3:08 pm, brother Benjamin ended his speech and introduced Malcolm X, who walked out onto the stage to a lengthy ovation.  Malcolm stepped up to a wooden podium and looked out at the audience.  When the applause finally settled down, he offered the audience the Muslim greeting and smiled when they responded in-kind.  Just as he began to speak again, a commotion broke out near the rear of the ballroom.  Two men jumped up, knocking wooden folding-chairs to the floor, as one of the men yelled, “Get your hand out of my pocket!”  As Malcolm responded with, “Cool it there, brothers,” a loud explosion suddenly erupted in the back of the room, which began to fill with smoke.
Malcolm’s bodyguards and aides hardly had time to react as the well coordinated ruses effectively diverted their attention from him, allowing unopposed gunmen to begin their attack.   A man rose from the front row and pulled out a double-barreled, sawed-off shotgun from under his coat and fired twice at Malcolm.  Both shots tore through the podium, striking Malcolm in the middle of his chest.  Simultaneously, as Malcolm was falling backwards and clutching his bloody chest, two more men jumped up and fired pistols at him as they rushed the stage.  Although Malcolm was down, the two men repeatedly fired bullets into his body before turning and running to flee the premises.  More shots were fired as they ran.  Several of Malcolm’s followers rushed to his aid.  By the time they reached him the entire ballroom was in total chaos.  Most of the panicked crowd attempted to flee the smoke-filled room and frightening onslaught, while others rushed to violently attack the fleeing perpetrators.
Betty Shabazz, shielded her children with her body beneath a bench.   As soon as the shooting ceased, she rushed toward the still body of her husband as she screamed, “They’re killing my husband!  They’re killing my husband!”  When she reached his side she realized he was dead, despite the frantic efforts of followers trying to stop the flow of blood from his bullet riddled body.     
Thomas Hagan removed
Thomas Hagan removed
 One of the assassins managed to escape by climbing through a bathroom window, while two other accomplices tried to flee down a flight of stairs and were pummeled with chairs and whatever else the angry and frightened crowd could find.   One suspect, 22-year old Talmadge Hayer (aka. Thomas Hagan), was shot in the leg by one of Malcolm’s bodyguards and was unable to flee the wrath of the angry mob that followed him out of the building.  Hayer was being kicked and beaten before two uniformed policemen rescued him from possible death.  His fellow accomplice managed to escape after being knocked down by an undercover policeman named Gene Roberts, a member of BOSS (Bureau of Special Services).  Roberts had grown so close to Malcolm X that the leader and his followers called him   “brother Gene.” Roberts then rushed to the stage and attempted to resuscitate the profusely bleeding Malcolm X.  A litter was provided from the hospital across the street and Malcolm was quickly taken to the emergency room, where the attending heart surgeon   tried to revive him.  A few minutes later, Malcolm X was pronounced dead.
Group around body of Malcolm X
Group around body of Malcolm X

Plots, Theories and Facts

Over the decades since that fateful February afternoon in 1965, questions surrounding the death of this provocative and intrepid man still plague us.  The Smoking Gun: The Malcolm X Files, reveals that an FBI report, dated February 22, 1965, states Malcolm X had “ten bullet wounds in his chest, thigh and ankle, plus four bullet creases in the chest and thigh.  This autopsy located one nine millimeter slug, one forty five caliber slug and several shotgun pellets in his body.”  Both blasts from the shotgun had torn through Malcolm X’s heart and aorta.
Police were only able to find the sawed-off, 12 gauge shotgun and over 30 casings from a .45 pistol and a 9 millimeter automatic, possibly a Luger.   The .45 caliber pistol was turned in later by one of the NOI bodyguards, who had taken it home, cleaned it and then turned it in to the FBI.  The Luger was never found.  Witnesses provided the names of two more suspects in the assassination, 26-year-old Norman 3X Butler, an NOI member; and 29-year-old Thomas 15X Johnson, an NOI member.  Both were known NOI enforcers, but neither could have gotten into the ballroom without the utmost suspicion and scrutiny.  Malcolm’s aides and bodyguards swear that neither man was present the day of the assassination.
The initial report made by the NYC police, and local newspapers, stated that two men were arrested and taken to the police station.   Later, that report disappeared and was vehemently denied to exist by the police who stated that Talmadge Hayer was the only person brought in.
For some reason, Gene Roberts had faded from the entire scenario, but some theorists suspect that he was the second man detained and was quickly and quietly released to protect   his cover as an undercover operative for BOSS.  Just who Gene Roberts was has never been found out.  BOSS was so secretive an agency that even the police were not aware of the organization and its agents.  Even their personnel files were kept secret.  Could Gene Roberts have been involved in the case, and was Roberts really his name?  What about the missing Luger?   Who really fired it?  Why didn’t Roberts testify in the Hayer, Butler, and Johnson trial as he did later on in the ‘Panther 21’ trial against New York City’s Black Panther faction?  Both were Robert’s undercover cases.  Why so much secrecy?  Witnesses say that just before the shooting, Roberts was standing on the stage near Malcolm X.  He had signaled to the bodyguards to be replaced and then moved to another position away from the stage.
During the trial, Hayer confessed to having fired shots from the .45 into Malcolm’s body, yet he testified that Butler and Johnson were not present at   the assassination and were not involved in the shooting.  Both men had plausible alibis, so were not seriously considered by the prosecutor.  Supposedly, the first police report also stated that five men were involved in the assassination.  That reported statement, somehow disappeared from the record.  Only the three men, Hayer, Butler and Johnson, were accused, tried and convicted.  It is still widely believed that Talmadge Hayer, with four other men, actively took part in the assassination of Malcolm X.  Those four suspected assassins still remain unknown to this day.
The Judas Factor
The Judas Factor
Karl Evanzz, a staff writer for the Washington Post, researched more than 300,000 pages of declassified FBI and CIA documents for his book, The Judas Factor.   In its introduction he states, “After analyzing these resources, I am convinced that Louis E. Lomax, an industrious African-American journalist who befriended Malcolm X in the late 1950’s, had practically solved the riddle of his assassination.”  He believed that Malcolm X was set up for the assassination by a former friend, John Ali, who was an agent/informer for an intelligence agency.  Malcolm X had previously commented that Ali had been responsible for his ouster from the NOI.  Ali eventually rose to the position of National Secretary of the NOI.  Lomax was later killed in an automobile accident (due to brake failure).
It is now known that government and law enforcement agencies planted infiltrators in the OAAU, NOI and almost all of the other civil rights movement organizations.  Some of these agent/informers were highly placed. Their assignments were not only to report on all of their activities, plans and members, but to create disruption, distrust and to frighten any supporters.  The involvement of the government’s “Cointelpro” (counter-intelligence program) operation to “neutralize” Malcolm X through BOSS, the NOI, and organized crime is strongly inferred by Evanzz in his book.  The goal of the Cointelpro program was to neutralize radical and subversive political organizations and dissidents through covert means, such as “black-bag jobs,” where agents/informers would enter homes and offices without warrants and remove or copy files, records ore plant incriminating material.
Martin Luther King with Malcolm X
Martin Luther King with Malcolm X
 Many believe that Malcolm X and other civil rights leaders were targets of these operations by Cointelpro.   Fear may have been growing that Malcolm X was gaining the support of Martin Luther King to make the struggles of African-Americans an international issue by presenting a petition of human rights violations to the International Court of Justice conference at The Hague.    In fact, Malcolm X’s assassination took place just two weeks before that conference. 
There are also those who believe that organized crime figures may have murdered Malcolm X because of his effective crusade against narcotics, alcohol and crime in Harlem.  His successful efforts to clean up the streets were achieved by introducing members of the community to black pride, the doctrines of Islam and   the creation of jobs through the establishment of independent black businesses supported by the NOI.  However,   the mafia’s involvement has been dismissed by investigators and most of those who were closest to Malcolm.
All fingers pointed to Muslims who were jealous of Malcolm’s growing success at recruiting many of Elijah Muhammad’s followers into the Muslim Mosque Incorporated (MMI).   Many Muslims believed Malcolm X was rivaling their leader and trying to smear Elijah Muhammad’s reputation by publicly denouncing him as an adulterer.  Muhammad had accepted Malcolm as a son and felt that Malcolm had betrayed him and the NOI by deviating from the true goals of the Islamic faith and peaceful teachings of the Koran.
When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, Malcolm said    that Kennedy “never foresaw that the chickens would come home to roost so soon.”  This comment was against Elijah Muhammad’s orders to not make any statements regarding Kennedy’s death and led to his suspending Malcolm X from any and all activities related to the NOI ministry.  In defiance of the suspension, Malcolm proceeded to set up his own mosque.  Muhammad then forbade all Muslims to speak to Malcolm.
It was at this time that anonymous phone calls and unsigned letters threatening Malcolm X’s life began.   Some of the calls were made to his home as well as to the local newspapers and wire services.  The NOI ordered him to relinquish his home and car, which were owned by them and he was taken to court for an eviction trial.
Louis Farrakhan
Louis Farrakhan
    Louis Farrakhan, a top NOI minister and spokesman, still denies he had anything to do with part of a statement made in the Muslim newspaper Muhammad Speaks that: “Only those who wish to be led to hell, or to their doom, will follow Malcolm.  The die is set, and Malcolm shall not escape, especially after such evil, foolish talk about his benefactor … Such a man is worthy of death and would have been met with death if it had not been for Muhammad’s confidence in Allah for victory over his enemies.”
Later, Farrakhan declared his love for Malcolm X, stating that, “He was my mentor, my teacher, a marvelous example to me of what a man should be.”   Farrakhan eventually made a public apology to Betty Shabazz, to which she remarked, “Minister Farrakhan, may your conceptual framework keep broadening.”


Malcolm X in his coffin
Malcolm X in his coffin

Autobiography of Malcolm X
Autobiography of Malcolm X
 The question remains: who killed Malcolm X?  In his autobiography, co-authored by Alex Haley, Malcolm made this remark about the attempts upon his life, “…the more I keep thinking about this thing, the things that have been happening lately, I’m not all that sure it’s the Muslims, I know what they can do, and what they can’t, and they can’t do some of the stuff recently going on.  Now, I’m going to tell you, the more I keep thinking about what happened to me in France, I think I’m going to quit saying it’s the Muslims.”
Upon learning of the assassination of Malcolm X, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. remarked that “One has to conquer the fear of death if he is going to do anything constructive in life and take a stand against evil.”
We may never know all of the facts about who was behind the assassination of Malcolm X and who ordered his death.    But we do know that these assassins denied him the chance to act upon his newly formed convictions.  Today, the man and the name, Malcolm X, are known   in America and throughout the world.  He was a celebrated freedom fighter and motivating force to those whose future he had the vision to see and the will to stand up and fight for.  Postage stamps and posters now bear his image and name out of recognition and honor for his final crusade.
The eulogy that African-American actor, Ossie Davis, delivered at Malcolm X’s funeral profoundly impresses upon us that, “…However we may have differed with him, or with each other about him and his value as a man, let his going from us serve only to bring us together, now.   Consigning these mortal remains to earth, the common mother of all, secure in the knowledge that what we place in the ground is no more now a man but a seed which, after the winter of our discontent, will come forth again to meet us.  And we will know him then for what he was and is… a Prince… our own black shining Prince! …who didn’t hesitate to die, because he loved us so.”
Malcolm X was a complex visionary who realized the course he set would be fraught with persecution, transitions and sacrifices.  Malcolm X was a man who fulfilled his place in history and stayed true to his words:  “It is a time for martyrs now, and if I am to be one, it will be for the cause of brotherhood.”


Draper, Allison Stark (2002). The Library of Political Assassinations, The Assassination of Malcolm X. The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc. New York.
Carson, Clayborne (1991). Malcolm X: The FBI Files. Introduction by Spike Lee; edited by Gallen. David Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc. New York.
Goldman, Peter (1973, 1979). The Death and Life of Malcolm X, Second Edition, University of Illinois Press, Urbana and Chicago edition, 1979. Published by arrangements with Harper & Row Publishers, Inc. New York.
Breitman, George (1967). The Last Year of Malcolm X: The Evolution of a Revolutionary. Pathfinder Press. New York.
al qalam: The Wonderful And Painful Moments of Malcolm X, Who Killed Him?
Sheppard, Roland (February 2003). The Assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Holt Labor Library, Labor Studies and Radical History. San Francisco, CA
The Smoking Gun: The Malcolm X Files
Evanzz, Karl (1992). The Plot to Kill Malcolm X. Thunder’s Mouth Press.New York, N.Y.
Cointelpro: (1996-2002)
“NYPD Plan to Bring Back the Red Squad, ”Revolutionary Worker #1175, November 17, 2002.(rwor.org)
Kurland, Daniel J. (2000). The Assassination of Malcolm X. Excerpts: The New York Times; Newsweek; New York Post.
Waldron, Clarence (June 5, 2000). Minister Louis Farrakhan: Sets the Record Straight About His Relationship With Malcolm X (Interview). Johnson Publishing Co. Chicago, IL
Official Web Site of Malcolm X.     Biography of Malcolm X.
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Chronology of the Life and Activities of Malcolm X.  Malcolm X: A Research Site.
Malcolm X (1925-1965) World Book, Inc.

 Malcom X Juan Nel

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