Malcolm X's assassination remains a mystery even half a century later. New evidence alleges an FBI conspiracy placing innocent people behind bars.
X is remembered for his eloquent speeches in which he sought rights for the African-American population and described the white man as "the devil." Later, he softened his stance and parted ways with other leaders of the Nation of Islam who turned against him.
Malcolm X, a fighter for the rights of African Americans, was killed in New York on February 21, 1965. Malcolm X's assassination occurred as he gave a speech criticizing Elijah Muhammad.
Three men were convicted for Malcolm X's death, all members of the Nation of Islam.
Who Was Malcolm X?
Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little in 1925, was the son of James Earl Little, a Baptist priest who advocated black ideals. Due to the constant threats of the Ku Klux Klan, the family had to move from Omaha to Lansing, Michigan, where Malcolm's father preached despite continuous threats.
Similar to Malcolm X's assassination, when Malcolm was only six years old, his father was brutally killed. Although supremacists, or people who believe in the superiority of the white race, were behind the murder, no one was condemned. The authorities in Michigan refused to prosecute those responsible for the crime. The official version was that James was killed in an accident.
After a few years, Malcolm was taken by the Center for Social Work employees and separated from his family. When he became a teenager, he left school and went to Boston, entering criminal waters.
The Nation Of Islam
In 1946, Malcolm was sentenced to prison for robbery. There, he heard about Elijah Muhammad, the Nation of Islam leader, a religious movement of Black Americans that unites Islam and black nationalism elements. This movement condemned Americans of European descent and called them "immoral devils."
Muhammad's sermons greatly influenced Malcolm, who later devoted himself to his education and called himself Malcolm X. The "X" symbolized his "abducted African identity." He changed his religion and accepted Islam. After six years in prison, Malcolm became loyal to the Nation of Islam in Harlem, New York.
Malcolm advocated self-defense and the liberation of African Americans. Because of his fiery speeches, he was worshiped by African-American communities in New York and around the country. He soon became one of the leaders and most passionate speakers of the movement.
Historian Zaher Ali once said for the Time newspaper:
"He caught everyone's eye because he was someone who had just been released from prison, and in a short time, he was seen as a leader of the development movement, at a time when many human rights organizations did not have their own programs in prisons. Much less often, someone chose former prisoners to be their spokespersons."
Malcolm's position on the freedom of African Americans was controversial. He advocated that African Americans spread power and wealth independently and rejected the then-dominant idea of integration and racial acceptance.
He was also distinctive because he always imagined "the freedom of African Americans spilling over the borders of the United States."
"He always saw himself as a citizen of the world, and he tried to connect with African Americans around the world."
Conflict With Muhammad And Departure From The Nation Of Islam
In the early 1960s, Malcolm began to develop his philosophy more and more, defying Muhammad, convinced that he was not fighting enough for civil rights. At the end of 1963, Malcolm began to bother Elijah, who believed that "X" had become too powerful. Elijah used his statements about the assassination of Kennedy and the silence of the NOI to suspend him from the movement.
The conflict was based on Malcolm's disapproval of Muhammad's alleged extramarital affairs. Also, Malcolm disapproved that the NOI did not express itself even when members of the police in Los Angeles physically attacked Muslims.
After a few months, Malcolm officially left the organization and went on a pilgrimage to Mecca. He returned to America as Al Hajj Malik Al Shabazz and, in June 1964, founded the Organization of African-American Unity.
Malcolm's movement grew day by day, and his philosophy became more and more influential, especially among students.
Secret Meeting With The Ku Klux Klan
Decades after Malcolm X's assassination, details of his meetings with supremacists surfaced. Namely, in the book The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X, published last year, it was revealed that Malcolm met with members of the Ku Klux Klan in 1961. They reportedly discussed a pact to help the clan create a "separate state" for African Americans.
The Klan even proposed an alliance with the Nation of Islam to murder Martin Luther King Jr., who led the desegregation of schools.
The meeting was allegedly attended by an infiltrated FBI agent, who introduced himself as a member of the KKK. Details of the meeting appeared in a never-before-published interview with Jeremiah Shabazz, a member of the Nation of Islam, at whose home the meeting was held.
The KKK called on the Nation of Islam to meet because both sides vehemently opposed the desegregation of schools, which accelerated following the Supreme Court's 1954 Supreme Court ruling in the Brown v. Education Committee. King fought against the "evil" of segregation, but Malcolm X continued to advocate racial separatism and rejected King's nonviolence doctrine.
Meanwhile, the Klan responded to the urge to desegregate with an intensifying campaign to kill and target homes and churches of African-Americans. As tensions rose, the KKK sought an unlikely ally in the Nation. X was sent in January 1961 to "meet the devils" at the Shabazz house and talk to the KKK at a meeting approved by Elijah Muhammad.
Klan members came to Atlanta in multiple cars, just days after John F. Kennedy took office. X then proposed "complete racial segregation" in which the KKK would help the Nation of Islam gain land for African Americans to live in a "separate state." The new country was supposed to serve, as the Nation believed, as a form of reparation for slavery and historical injustices against African Americans.
Despite the signs of an agreement, the Klan and the Islamic Nation never developed an alliance. Four years later, Malcolm X's death occurred. He was shot with a shotgun while giving a speech. The man who fired the first bullet was joined by two other men and fired more than 20 missiles at Malcolm in front of the eyes of women and children.
Who Was Responsible For Malcolm X's Assassination?
Thomas Hagen, better known as Mujahid Abdul Halim, Muhammad Abdul Aziz, and Khalil Islam, were all sentenced to life in prison in 1966 for Malcolm X's assassination.
Hagen admitted that he participated in Malcolm X's assassination, but he insisted that Aziz and Islam were innocent. He also claimed that four other people took part in the Malcolm X assassination, but he refused to reveal who they were. He uncovered this in 1977, along with detailed plans for the assassination.
The case was never reopened despite Hagen's testimony, and Aziz struggled for decades to "clear" his name. Islam passed away in 2009, and both have always claimed innocence.
The Who Killed Malcolm X series determined that Islam and Aziz were not at the crime scene. Historian Abdur-Rahman Muhammad asked many new questions about what happened that day. It is speculated that X was under the scrutiny of the American security services, which infiltrated their people into the Nation of Islam and Malcolm's new movement. Allegedly, the then director of the FBI, Edgar Hoover, sent a dispatch writing: "do something with Malcolm."
The security services saw X as a threat. According to Ali:
"They worked diligently to undermine his efforts, create and aggravate his fate, and they accelerated the circumstances that would lead to his death."
Just seven days before Malcolm X's death, someone threw a bomb at Malcolm's house while he was inside with his wife and four children. No one was condemned. Although no one was injured in the attack, it was clear to everyone that someone wanted to kill Malcolm.
What Really Happened On The Day Of Malcolm X's Assassination?
Allegedly, on February 21, 1965, Malcolm told his security not to perform additional checks on the eve of the speech in the Audubon Hall. Until then, anyone attending the rally had to be searched. However, Malcolm considered back in January to stop this practice.
About 400 people came to the rally that day. However, there were reportedly no members of the police, which was strange, as they were always visible at every Malcolm rally.
When X stepped on stage, there was an argument in the audience. Malcolm and his security tried to prevent the incident, but a man ran onto the stage and shot him at that moment. Two more came on stage and continued shooting. Twenty-one projectiles were found in Malcolm's body.
Security guards shot Hagan in the leg and prevented him from fleeing until police arrived. The accomplices in Malcolm X's assassination were caught only seven days later, based on the testimony of witnesses who claimed that they shot X.
"The New York police were of the opinion that the Nation of Islam killed Malcolm. They thought it was a small showdown between two rivals."
It is believed that the police did not conduct a thorough investigation on the Malcolm X assassination. The policemen just "ran" through the hall and finished everything so quickly that dance was organized there that evening.
Five days after Elijah's murder, he denied that he was in any way connected with the murder, saying that "Malcolm himself got what he advocated."
More than five decades after Malcolm X's death, many historians have begun pushing for a re-examination of the case. They pointed out that the authorities knew what Malcolm was up to but did not react, adding that "the fact that the investigation was carried out says a lot."
A spokesman for the state prosecutor's office in Manhattan revealed that they started with a preliminary review of the case of Malcolm X's assassination, and only after the series Who killed Malcolm X began to air on Netflix last year.
After Malcolm X's death, the New York Post described Malcolm as "brilliant, wild, eccentric, and unpredictable." His autobiography, published after his death, remains one of the most influential books of the last century. In America, especially in Harlem, streets, schools, and libraries carry Malcolm X's name.
The Investigation, Which Lasted Two Years, Led To New Findings
Two men convicted of Malcolm X's assassination were acquitted, after more than 50 years, because it was determined that the authorities hid specific evidence.
Muhammad Aziz, 83, and Khalil Islam (who died in 2009), who were sentenced to a combined of 42 years in prison for the Malcolm X assassination, were acquitted after a two-year investigation by their lawyers. The lawyer Cyrus Vance Jr. said:
"They did not get the justice they deserve."
Their lawyers, the Innovation Project, and the Manhattan District Attorney resumed assembling all the crime pieces. However, only a few living witnesses or potential suspects remained. The documentation and other evidence were highly unavailable.
They found enough proof to acquit Aziz and Islam despite all the obstacles. Their names were finally cleaned from Malcolm X's assassination.
The investigation found a witness who supported Aziz's alibi - that he was at home at the time of Malcolm X's assassination. The lawyer Deborah Francois stated:
"This is not a mere oversight. This is a consequence of extreme and huge injustice".
Aziz, who was called Norman 3X Butler at the time of the crime, was released in 1985. Islam, formerly Thomas Johnson, was liberated two years later and died in 2009. They spent years in solitary confinement in one of New York's maximum-security prisons.
Lawyer David Shanies said:
"It has affected their lives in ways you can't even imagine, as well as their families."
More than 50 years after Malcolm X's assassination, the murder is suspected of a conspiracy by New York police and the FBI.
Allegedly, a former police officer working undercover at the time, Ray Wood, wrote a letter on his deathbed stating the police and the FBI conspired to kill the famous activist. The plan was to arrest members of his security before Malcolm X's assassination, which resulted in no one securing the entrance to the hall in Harlem.