“Don’t be messin’ with my pockets”
Malcolm X was born as Malcolm Little on 19 May 1925 at University Hospital, Omaha, Nebraska. Despite graduating top of his class, Little left school after a teacher he admired told him that studying to be a lawyer was “no realistic goal for a nigger”. Little became a delinquent, was sent to borstal, then became a drug dealer and burglar and was sent to prison.
Little became attracted to the Temple of Islam (later the Nation of Islam), a racist Muslim organization that referred to white people as “devils”. It was after meeting Elijah Muhammad, a leader of the Nation of Islam, that Little took to calling himself Malcolm X.
After his conversion X worked hard proselytizing and from 1959 he began to appear on television as spokesman for the Nation of Islam. On 14 January 1958 X married Betty Jean Sanders in Lansing, Michigan. In August 1963 X criticized Martin Luther King’s March on Washington, unable to comprehend why blacks were enthused at a protest “run by whites in front of a statue of a president who has been dead for a hundred years and who didn’t like us when he was alive”.
On 8 March 1964 X announced that he had left the Nation of Islam and four days later founded Muslim Mosque, Inc. He converted to Sunni Islam and adopted a Muslim name, el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz. The Nation of Islam regarded X as a traitor and tried to evict him from his home in Queens, New York, claiming that they had paid for the building.
On 14 February 1965 the house was firebombed. X had just began his speech before a crowd of 400 on the first day of National Brotherhood Week when a man in the audience shouted, “Get your hand outta my pocket! Don’t be messin’ with my pockets!”
As bodyguards moved in to quell the disturbance, X called out “Cool it there”. A man rushed forward with a sawn-off shotgun and shot X in the chest.
Two more men rushed the stage and fired pistols at X, who was hit by 16 bullets. The 39 year old was pronounced dead on arrival at 3.30pm.
Audubon Ballroom, Broadway and 165th Street, New York City, USA
3.10pm Sunday 21 February 1965
On 27 February 1965 more than 1,500 people attended Malcolm X’s funeral in Harlem at the Faith Temple Church of God in Christ (now Child’s Memorial Temple Church of God in Christ).
X was buried at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. Three men were charged with the murder and convicted: Thomas Hagan (aka Thomas Hayer aka Talmadge Hayer), Norman 3X Butler (aka Muhammad Abd AI-Aziz) and Thomas 15X Johnson. On 30 April 1966 Hayer confessed to firing the shotgun but alleged that the two other accused were innocent. Instead, he said that Leon David and Wilbur McKinley were his accomplices.
Norman 3X Butler was paroled in 1985, still a member of the Nation of Islam. Thomas 15X Johnson was paroled in 1987 and now calls himself Khalil Islam.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
On 12 January 1995 X’s daughter Qubilah Shabazz was arrested and indicted at Minneapolis with trying to hire an assassin to murder Nation of Islam founder Louis Farrakhan whom she blamed for the murder of her father.
X’s widow died in 1997 after she was badly burned at her home in a fire started by her grandson who was described at his trial as psychotic and schizophrenic.