45th Anniversary of Malcolm X’s Assassination
On this day in 1965, one of America’s most iconic leaders, Malcolm X, was assassinated.
Forty-five years after his death, history still hasn’t solved the riddle of the man born Malcolm Little, who became Malcolm X when he joined the Nation of Islam in 1952 after a prison stint to “replace the white slavemaster name of Little”, and then named himself El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz after becoming a Sunni Muslim and making his pilgrimage to Mecca.
On February 21, 1965, in Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom, Malcolm X began speaking to a meeting of the Organization of Afro-American Unity (a secular group that advocated Black nationalism that he founded) when a disturbance broke out in the crowd.
A man allegedly yelled, “N*gger! Get your hand outta my pocket!” As Malcolm and his bodyguards moved to quiet the disturbance, a man rushed forward and shot him in the chest with a sawed-off shotgun. Two other men charged the stage and fired handguns, hitting him 16 times. Angry onlookers caught and beat one of the assassins as the others fled the ballroom. Malcolm X was pronounced dead at 3:30 p.m., shortly after he arrived at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital.
His funeral was held on February 27 in Harlem, New York. Late actor and activist Ossie Davis delivered the eulogy, here in part:
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.
Since Malcolm’s death, numerous parties have been accused as being responsible: the Nation of Islam (particularly Louis Farrakhan), the FBI’s COINTELPRO program; even local drug dealers. Three men arrested on the scene of the murder – Talmadge Hayer (the only one who ever admitted firing shots) Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson – were all charged and convicted. All three were eventually released in the late 80s and early 90s.
Malcolm X was one of the most influential African-Americans in history – not just in his brave fight for social justice, but also his fashion and style that marked the period he lived in, from “zoot suits” to skinny ties and fedoras.
Rest in Power, Malcolm X. May your work and memory live on for generations to come.
Main Source: Wikipedia