On This Day In History 1965: Malcolm X Assassinated

On February 21, 1965, at 3:30 p.m., Malcolm X was pronounced dead at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. The cause of death was murder due to 21 gunshot wounds. The assassination took place at the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights, in New York City, while speaking to the Organization of Afro-American Unity. On that fateful day, Malcolm X was shot 21 times by three assassins that were in the crowd. The three men were identified as Thomas Hagan, Norman Butler, and Thomas Johnson. Hagen was the only assassin to go to jail for Malcolm’s murder.

Malcolm Little was born on May 19, 1925, in Omaha, Nebraska. Malcolm was witness to his family being harassed and terrorized by the Ku Klux Klan, forcing the Little’s to uproot their family and move to Michigan. In Michigan, Malcolm’s father was murdered by the Black Legion, a white supremacy group. The murder of his father was never investigated and no one prosecuted for the murder. Malcolm would eventually be taken away from his family by social workers and he would drop out of high school and move to Boston and New York City.

In the Northeast, Malcolm became involved in criminal activity that would end up with him being sent to prison. It was in prison where Malcolm Little would become Malcolm X. While he was in prison, Malcolm learned about the Nation of Islam, a new movement for African Americans that was beginning to gain traction. The Nation of Islam preached a by any means necessary mindset that African Americans should use in respect to taking their equal rights from the white people that they viewed as minions of Satan.

Malcolm would write a letter to the leader of the Nation of Islam, Elijah Muhammad, and asked him how he could join the movement. Elijah explained to him that he had to renounce his past and accept all the rules of Islam into his life. Malcolm agreed. In 1950, two years before he would get out of prison, Malcolm Little began signing his letters as Malcolm X. The X was symbolic and meant to express the African name that he did not know due to slaves having them names changed.

At the height of the civil rights movement, Malcolm X and Marthin Luther King Jr. were the leaders of African Americans in the United States. King preached a non-violence mentality while Malcolm preached the violence of the Nation of Islam. In the mid-60s, Elijah Muhammad saw Malcolm had become more outspoken than him, and a very powerful voice for the African Americans during the civil rights movement. Muhammad suspended Malcolm from the Nation of Islam.

Still living an Islamic lifestyle, Malcolm took the opportunity to visit the Middle East. The religious journey changed him in mentality and in name. Upon his return to the United States, Malcolm X was now named El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. El-Shabazz founded the Organization of Afro-American Unity. Instead of the violence that was preached in the Nation of Islam, the Organization of Afro-American Unity spoke about a more peaceful approach to ending racism. El-Shabazz would then convert himself in the ways of Sunni Muslims and became an enemy, and a target, of the Nation of Islam.

Malcolm had many attempts on his life during 1964 and up to his assassination in 1965. One week prior to his death, his home was firebombed. It was believed that the Nation of Islam was responsible. Two days before he was killed, Malcolm spoke at an interview in which he stated the Nation of Islam was trying to kill him. They succeeded.

The legacy of Malcolm X has him as one of the most prominent African Americans in history. He is considered to have been an integral part in progressing the civil rights movement and help bring equality to the African-American race.

[AP Photo]