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Malcolm X Assassinated

Malcolm X Assassinated

February 21, 1965: In New York City, Malcolm X, an African American nationalist and religious leader, is assassinated by rival Black Muslims while addressing his Organization of Afro-American Unity at the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights.

Born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1925, Malcolm was the son of James Earl Little, a Baptist preacher who advocated the Black nationalist ideals of Marcus Garvey. Threats from the Ku Klux Klan forced the family to move to Lansing, Michigan, where his father continued to preach his controversial sermons despite continuing threats. In 1931, Malcolm’s father was murdered by the white supremacist Black Legion, and Michigan authorities refused to prosecute those responsible. In 1937, Malcolm was taken from his family by welfare caseworkers. By the time he reached high school age, he had dropped out of school and moved to Boston, where he became increasingly involved in criminal activities.

In 1946, at the age of 21, Malcolm was sent to prison on a burglary conviction. It was there he encountered the teachings of Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam, whose members are popularly known as Black Muslims. The Nation of Islam advocated Black nationalism and racial separatism and condemned Americans of European descent as immoral “devils.” Muhammad’s teachings had a strong effect on Malcolm, who entered into an intense program of self-education and took the last name “X” to symbolize his stolen African identity.

READ MORE: The Explosive Chapter Left Out of Malcolm X’s Autobiography

After six years, Malcolm was released from prison and became a loyal and effective minister of the Nation of Islam in Harlem, New York. In contrast with civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X advocated self-defense and the liberation of African Americans “by any means necessary.” A fiery orator, Malcolm was admired by the African American community in New York and around the country.

In the early 1960s, he began to develop a more outspoken philosophy than that of Elijah Muhammad, whom he felt did not sufficiently support the civil rights movement. In late 1963, Malcolm’s suggestion that President John F. Kennedy’s assassination was a matter of the “chickens coming home to roost” provided Elijah Muhammad, who believed that Malcolm had become too powerful, with a convenient opportunity to suspend him from the Nation of Islam.

A few months later, Malcolm formally left the organization and made a Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, where he was profoundly affected by the lack of racial discord among orthodox Muslims. He returned to America as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz and in June 1964 founded the Organization of Afro-American Unity, which advocated Black identity and held that racism, not the white race, was the greatest foe of the African American. Malcolm’s new movement steadily gained followers, and his more moderate philosophy became increasingly influential in the civil rights movement, especially among the leaders of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee.

READ MORE: 7 Things You May Not Know About Malcolm X


When Malcolm X was assassinated on February 21, 1965, in the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights, Manhattan, New York City, Hagan was shot in the leg by one of Malcolm X's bodyguards while attempting to flee from the building. Hampered by his bullet wound, Hagan was grabbed by several members of the crowd who witnessed the shooting and physically beat him before police officers arrived and arrested Hagan at the scene. He later confessed to the crime but said that Thomas Johnson (Khalil Islam) and Norman 3X Butler (Muhammad Abd Al-Aziz), two suspects arrested at a later point in time, were not involved in the assassination. [1]

Hagan stated in a 1977 affidavit that he had planned the assassination with four others (Johnson and Butler not being among them) to seek revenge for Malcolm X's public criticism of Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam. He said that one of his accomplices distracted Malcolm X's bodyguards by starting an argument about having been pickpocketed. When the bodyguards moved toward the diversion and away from Malcolm X, a man with a shotgun stepped up to him and shot him in the chest. After that, Hagan himself and another of his accomplices shot several rounds at Malcolm X with semi-automatic handguns. [1] [4]

Hagan, Butler, and Johnson all received 20-years-to-life sentences in 1966. During his 45 years in jail, Hagan earned bachelor's and master's degrees he filed 16 times for parole but was denied each time. Butler was paroled in 1985 and Johnson in 1987. From 1988, Hagan was in a work release program, which allowed him to seek work outside the prison. It required him to spend only two days a week in a minimum-security facility in Manhattan. For the rest of the week, he was allowed to stay with his wife and children. Among other places, he worked at the Crown Heights Youth Collective, as a counselor at a homeless shelter on Wards Island, and in a fast-food restaurant. Hagan was granted parole in March 2010 and was released from prison at the end of April. He is still a practicing Muslim but has left the Nation of Islam, no longer agreeing with their ideology, and has expressed "regrets and sorrow" for having shot Malcolm X. [1] [2] [3]

Hagan was portrayed by Giancarlo Esposito in the 1992 American biographical film Malcolm X.


This Day In History: Malcolm X Is Assassinated (1965)

On this day in 1965, human rights activist and Muslim leader Malcolm X was assassinated in New York City. He was 39-years-old. By 1964, the prominent leader had struck out on his own, traveling abroad to promote his ideas in Europe and Africa. Years earlier, in 1952, he adopted the teachings of the Nation of Islam and became a prominent spokesperson on behalf of the group. The teachings included provocative ideas, including that whites were the devil, and that blacks are the superior race. This was not altogether outlandish, given segregation was still widely practiced throughout the United States.

Malcolm X photographs Cassius Clay after Clay became the world heavyweight champion (1964)., Public Domain

Racial segregation in the United States was little more than an extension of suppression through slavery. Ideas that the Nation of Islam advocated were the same ideas being applied to blacks, but superimposed on white society. Many in both white and black communities were distressed by Malcolm X&rsquos statements when he spoke on behalf of the Nation of Islam. At least part of the shock came from drastically contrasting messages emerging from African American leaders. Where Martin Luther King revered peace, Malcolm X revered violence.

Malcolm X had a very different outlook on solutions being tossed to the wind during the Civil Rights Movement. While some blacks in America looked for equal rights and the end of segregation, X wanted to take segregation another direction entirely. He wanted to enhance the space between blacks and whites. He proposed that blacks return to Africa. By 1964 however, X stepped away from the Nation of Islam claiming its inflexible teachings were too old and tired to promote changes needed. It was this break that ultimately would cost him his life.

The Audubon Ballroom stage after the murder of Malcolm X. Circles on backdrop mark bullet holes. Public Domain

Throughout 1964, tensions between X and the Nation of Islam intensified. X was forging a new path for himself. He was sounding more diplomatic by incorporating ideas about &ldquoequality&rdquo into his speeches. He often denoted by the end of his talks that if things did not go their way, violence might be the answer. His appeal was grand. The Nation of Islam was so angered by his actions, one of the temples order his car be bombed. Death threats were inferred in interviews, and one minister of the Islam order said X should be beheaded.

The FBI overheard death threats and in 1965, Malcolm X announced during an interview that the Nation of Islam were actively trying to kill him. Two days later while giving a speech, he was sabotaged. Using a sawed off shot gun, an audience member shot X in the chest. Two more individuals from the audience stormed the stage wielding semi-automatic guns. An autopsy report concluded Malcolm X died from 21 bullet wounds to his body.


New claims surrounding Malcolm X assassination surface in letter written on former NYPD officer’s death bed

"I have carried these secrets with a heavy heart," Ray Wood wrote.

New information released regarding the death of Malcolm X

New allegations surrounding the death of Malcolm X have surfaced in a letter written by a former New York City Police Department officer on his death bed.

On Jan. 25, 2011, Ray Wood, who was serving as an undercover police officer on the day of Malcolm X's death, wrote a letter in which he admitted he "participated in actions that in hindsight were deplorable and detrimental to the advancement of my own black people."

When Wood was hired by the NYPD in 1964, his job was to "infiltrate civil rights organizations" to find evidence of criminal activity so the FBI could discredit the subjects and arrest its leaders, Wood wrote in the letter obtained by ABC News.

Wood's handler devised the arrest of two of Malcolm X's "key" security detail members in a plot to bomb the Statue of Liberty days before his 1965 assassination, Wood wrote. The plot involved three members of a Black "terrorist group" and a Canadian woman who were planning to dynamite the Statue of Liberty, the Liberty Bell and the Washington Monument, the New York Times reported on Feb. 16, 1965.

"It was my assignment to draw the two men into a felonious federal crime, so that they could be arrested by the FBI and kept away from managing Malcolm X's door security on February 21, 1965," Wood wrote. ". At that time I was not aware that Malcolm X was the target."

Malcolm X was assassinated in Manhattan's Audubon Ballroom while addressing the Organization of Afro-American Unity on Feb. 21, 1965. Three members of the Nation of Islam were convicted of his murder.

Wood alleged in the letter that "his actions on behalf of the New York City Police Department (BOSSI) were done under duress and fear," adding that he could have faced "detrimental consequences" if he did not follow the orders of his handlers.

"After witnessing repeated brutality at the hands of my coworkers (Police), I tried to resign," he wrote. "Instead I was threatened with arrest by pinning marijuana and alcohol trafficking charges on me if I did not follow through with the assignments."

Wood wrote that, as he faced failing health, he was concerned that the family of Thomas Johnson, one of the men convicted of killing Malcolm X, would not be able to exonerate him after Wood died. Johnson was arrested at the Audubon Ballroom the night Malcolm X was killed to protect Wood's cover and "the secrets of the FBI and NYPD," Wood wrote.

Wood placed his full confession into the care of his cousin, Reginald Wood Jr., and requested that the information be held until after his death.

"It is my hope that this information is received with the understanding that I have carried these secrets with a heavy heart and remorsefully regret my participation in this matter," Wood wrote.

Wood's cousin, who wrote the book "The Ray Wood Story," published earlier this month, described Wood to "Good Morning America" as a "good man that was tricked and forced to betray his own people."

"And he felt ill and remorse for that," Reggie Wood said.

Last year, the New York City district attorney's office launched another investigation into Malcolm X's death and those convicted after the documentary "Who Killed Malcolm X?" aired on Netflix.

In response to an ABC News inquiry, the Manhattan District Attorney's office stated, "Our office's review of this matter is active and ongoing."

NYPD spokeswoman Sgt. Jessica McRorie said in a statement that the NYPD has provided "all available records relevant to that case" to the district attorney's office.

The FBI did not respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump described the review into Malcolm X's death as restorative justice.

"This is the only way we can bridge this divide," Crump told "GMA." "We have to have transparency, present accountability, and that's the only way we'll ever get to trust."

Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP, told "GMA" that "far too many African Americans who have stood up, who voice equality and justice in this country, have found themselves being persecuted, prosecuted or, in the case of Malcolm X, assassinated."

ABC News' Sabina Ghebremedhin, Aaron Katersky and Samara Lynn contributed to this report.


Who Killed Malcolm X? And Why?

“I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being first and foremost, and as such, I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole

Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, born Malcolm Little) was an influential and inspirational figure to the Afro-Americans in the United States. A powerful orator, excellent debater and willing to preach “The price of freedom is death,” led for his personality and teachings to be printed across the U.S. and the world.

There are three possible answers. Three—because each on its own isn’t satisfactory. Examining the motives behind the killing inevitably leads for more questions to be asked and before you know it, you’re in too deep.

Malcolm X’s countless speeches, debates, press conferences, letters and autobiography reveal many factors that could’ve contributed to his death. Indeed, just as he had supporters, he also had many enemies.

Malcolm X, himself, commented in the last few pages of his autobiography on his possible death:

Every morning when I wake now, I regard it as a having another borrowed day. In any city, wherever I go, making speeches, holding meetings of my organisation, or attending to other business, black men are watching every move I make, awaiting their chance to kill me, I have said publicly many times that I know that they have their orders. Anyone who chooses not to believe what I am saying doesn’t know the Muslims in the Nation of Islam.

I know, too, that I could suddenly die at the hands of some white racists. Or I could die at the hands of some Negro hired by the white man. Or it could be some brainwashed Negro acting on his own idea that by eliminating me, he would be helping out the white man because I talk about the white man the way I do.

With this in mind, the three possible answers are as follows:

One, those who were convicted for his assassination were Talmadge Hayer, Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson. This could imply they worked together on their own accord – no influence from outside power. However, all there were members of the Nation of Islam.

Did the Nation of Islam order his assassination? Malcolm X, during numerous press conferences claimed his life was at threat by the Nation of Islam.

He claimed that Elijah Muhammad had ordered his death simply because he had learned the truth—Elijah Muhammad was the father of eight children by four teenage personal secretaries.

The Nation of Islam had a figure in Malcolm who, judging by his speeches and expressions, truly believed in Elijah Muhammad and was willing to die for him, and represented the Nation of Islam at all times. This should have been an advantage to them considering his vocal ability. However, it was actually a disadvantage to Malcolm X—realised after his suspension from the Nation of Islam—as it created jealously and rivalry within the organisation.

After his pilgrimage to Mecca and his visits to various African nations, he began to have his own ideas on how to further the Afro-American movement. He also converted to orthodox Islam, thus, gaining him international recognition and connections with Muslim leaders abroad. But this was a direct threat to Elijah Muhammad.

Elijah Muhammad tore into Malcolm in his public speeches. “Who was he leading? Who was he teaching? He has no truth! We didn’t want to kill Malcolm! His foolish teaching would bring him to his own end!”

‘We didn’t want to kill Malcolm!’? This implies that they may not have wanted to, but they needed to and had to kill him.


What happened with the investigation into Malcolm X’s assassination?

Talmadge Hayer was shot in the leg by a bodyguard and apprehended by members of the crowd as he tried to escape before police arrived. The other two suspects, Butler and Johnson, were arrested a week later after witnesses allegedly identified them as being the other gunmen. Butler and Johnson were prominent members of the Harlem NOI.

The NYPD’s narrative “was that the Nation of Islam killed Malcolm,” Ali says. “They thought this was just some small-time crime between two rivals.”

However, during the ensuing trial, both Johnson and Butler maintained their innocence. Hayer admitted to being a part of the plan to assassinate Malcolm, but testified that Johnson and Butler were not involved, according to a New York Times article from March 1, 1966. At the time of the trial, Hayer did not name any other culprits.

There was no evidence linking Butler or Johnson to the crime. Butler even had an alibi for the time of the murder: He was at home resting after injuring his leg a doctor who had treated him took the stand during the trial. Nonetheless, all three men were found guilty in 1966 and sentenced to life in prison.

Liz Mazucci, the former Chief Researcher on the Malcolm X Project, which is part of the Columbia University Center for Contemporary Black History, says law enforcement did not investigate the case thoroughly. The scene of the crime was processed so quickly, for example, that a dance party happened at the Audubon Ballroom just hours after the shooting.

“It seemed convenient to pin the murder charge on [Butler and Johnson],” Mazucci tells TIME, “even though they didn&rsquot quite fit the story shared with [police] through eyewitness reports and FBI informants.”

In 1977 and 1978, Hayer submitted two affidavits in which he continued to assert that Butler and Johnson were not involved in the assassination. Hayer did, however, name four men &mdash all members of the NOI’s Newark chapter who he alleged had begun planning Malcolm X’s murder in May 1964. He said that he was approached by two of the four men who told him that Malcolm X should be killed. They later met with the other two men and discussed how they would commit the crime.

“I had a bit of love and admiration for the Honorable Elijah Muhammed,” Hayer later said according to Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, “and I just felt that like this is something that I have to stand up for.”

Five days after the assassination, Muhammad denied any involvement with the assassination, but said that “Malcolm X got just what he preached.”

Law enforcement never pursued investigations into these men and the case was never reopened.

Butler was paroled in 1985. Johnson was released in 1989 and died in 2009. Hayer was released in 2010.


The Assassination Of Malcolm X

Getty Images Malcolm X with his daughters Qubilah (left) and Attilah two years before his assassination.

On Feb. 21, 1965, Malcolm X held a rally at the Audubon Ballroom in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City for his newly formed Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), a non-religious group that aimed to unite black Americans in their fight for human rights. His family's house had been destroyed in a firebomb attack only several days prior, but that did not stop Malcolm X from speaking to the crowd of 400 people.

One of the rally's speakers told supporters, "Malcolm is a man who would give his life for you. There aren't many men who would lay down their lives for you."

Malcolm eventually rose to the podium to speak. "Salam aleikum," he said. There was a commotion in the crowd — a bunch of drunks, some rally-goers assumed. And then Malcolm was shot, tumbling backward with blood on his face and chest.

Witnesses described multiple gunshots from multiple men, one of them "firing like he was in some Western, running backward toward the door and firing at the same time."

According to a first-hand report by UPI correspondent Scott Stanley, the barrage of shots continued "in what seemed like an eternity."

"I heard a terrifying volley of gunshots and screams and saw Malcolm bowled over by the bullets. His wife, Betty, cried hysterically, 'they're killing my husband'," Stanley recalled. Betty, who was pregnant at the time with the couple's twins, had thrown herself onto the rest of her children to shield them from the gunfire.

Malcolm X was shot at least 15 times.

Once the hysteria subsided and Malcolm X's body was carried away on a stretcher, the crowd began to attack the suspects right before the two men were taken into police custody. One of them had his left leg broken by Malcolm's supporters.

One of the assassins was Talmadge Hayer, better known as Thomas Hagan, who was a member of Temple Number 7 in Harlem, a Nation of Islam temple that Malcolm once led. Police said that Hagan had a pistol with four unused bullets at the time of his arrest.


This Day In History: Malcolm X Assassinated

Malcolm X was assassinated on this day in 1965 while addressing his Organization of Afro-American Unity in New York City. Unlike other civil rights activists, Malcolm X advocated for self-defense in the face of violence.

Born Malcolm Little in Nebraska in 1925, he was the son of James Earl Little, a Baptist preacher who advocated Black Nationalist ideals. Threats from the Ku Klux Klan forced the family to move to Michigan, where his father was murdered in 1931.

At the age of 21, Malcolm was arrested for burglary. It was in prison that he encountered the teaching of Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam, which combined Islam with Black Nationalism and encouraged young African-Americans struggling in segregated America. Malcolm changed his last name to &ldquoX&rdquo to symbolize his stolen African identity.

After six years, he was released from prison and became a supporter and leader of the Black Muslim faith in New York.

Malcolm formally left the Nation of Islam in the 1960s, as he began to believe that Elijah Muhammad didn&rsquot sufficiently support civil rights. In 1964, he founded the Organization of Afro-American Unity, which advocated black identity and stated that racism was the greatest foe for African-Americans.

"I am not a racist. I am against every form of racism and segregation, every form of discrimination. I believe in human beings, and that all human beings should be respected as such, regardless of their color."

During several international trips to Africa, Europe, and Saudi Arabia, Malcolm said he no longer believed that all white people were evil. He announced he was planning to take the black struggle before the United Nations and said his organization was willing to work with other black organizations and progressive white groups in the United States.

It was during one of these meetings, when, on Feb. 21, 1965, while discussing the policies and programs of his new organization, he was assassinated. An autobiography, the result of collaboration between Malcolm and journalist Alex Haley, was published the same year.

February is Black History Month. Read more about Malcolm X and Black History Month here.

&ldquoYou don&rsquot have to be a man to fight for freedom. All you have to do is to be an intelligent human being."


This Day in History: Malcolm X Assassinated

That was the mantra of black activist Malcolm X, who was assassinated during an address in New York City 52 years ago today at the age of 39.

Schooled by the Nation of Islam while in prison for burglary at the age of 21, Malcolm became a loyal follower of its leader Elijah Muhammed — and later an effective minister, known for his fiery oratory.

The Nation of Islam advocated black nationalism and racial separatism and condemned Americans of European descent as immoral “devils.”

His adopted brand of activism was decidedly at odds with America’s civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr., who followed the pacifist protest ideology of India’s Mahatma Gandhi. By contrast, Malcolm advocated self-defense and separation from the “white man.”

In late 1963, Malcolm’s suggestion that President John F. Kennedy’s assassination was a matter of the “chickens coming home to roost” prompted Elijah Muhammad, who believed that Malcolm had become too powerful, to suspend him from the Nation of Islam.

A few months later, Malcolm formally left the organization and made a Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, where he was profoundly affected by the lack of racial discord among orthodox Muslims. He returned to America as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz and in June 1964 founded the Organization of Afro-American Unity, which advocated black identity and held that racism, not the white race, was the greatest foe of the African American.

Malcolm’s more moderate philosophy became increasingly influential in the civil rights movement, especially among the leaders of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee.

A week before he was shot to death by members of the National of Islam, he home was firebombed.

Thomas Hagan was the only man who admitted his role in the murder. Hagan was sentenced to 20 years to life imprisonment after being found guilty at trial with two others in 1966. The other two men were released in the 1980s and have long denied involvement in the killing.


Contextual Note

In the case of the JFK assassination, numerous people in a position to know and possibly reveal the truth were conveniently eliminated or silenced, allowing the official version of the events to take precedence over any alternative interpretation. Lee Harvey Oswald was of course the first to disappear, gunned down in the Dallas police station by Jack Ruby. Guy Bannister, Mary Meyer and Dorothy Kilgallen were others on a long list.

None of these disappearances prove anything. They could be mere coincidences. But they point to a pattern not inconsistent with the documented policy of the CIA at the time that listed assassination as one of its tools in covert operations. Mary Meyer was the ex-wife of CIA operative Cord Meyer, who headed the Covert Action Staff of the Directorate of Plans from 1962. He had also been in charge of the notorious Operation Mockingbird that allowed the CIA to control the narrative of American media. Mary Meyer was also Kennedy’s paramour. She was the victim of an unsolved murder in 1964. Kilgallen had interviewed Jack Ruby in 1964. Shortly before her death (“apparent suicide”), she “told acquaintances she had a ‘great scoop’ that would ‘blow the JFK case sky high.’”

The standard reasoning to defend the official accounts of assassinations was expressed by Bruce Miroglio, a lawyer cited by the BBC: “The number of people that would be involved in the cover-up is so vast, it seems almost impossible they would keep anything earth-shattering under wraps.” Miroglio obviously knows little about either organizational psychology in general or government secrecy in particular. Why have liberal presidents such as Barack Obama gone to such extremes to send whistleblowers to prison? Concern for one’s survival and well-being can incite close to 100% of the population not only to keep a secret but to accept passive complicity.

As the BBC reports this week, the posthumous testimony of New York policeman Raymond Wood contains the allegation “that he was tasked with making sure that Malcolm X would have no door security in the building where he was due to speak in public.” Wood’s family affirms that “he did not want to make the letter public until after his death, fearing repercussions from the authorities.” As any mafioso knows, repercussions sometimes happen.


In American History

Not only did the trial fail to definitively answer who murdered Malcolm, it also failed to answer who sponsored the assassination. The prosecution team quickly assumed the involvement of the Nation of Islam (NOI), and failed to track leads that did not match their assumptions.

Focused solely on winning the case as they defined it, the prosecution worked with the circumstantial evidence they had without attempting to find hard facts or the real motive behind the assassination. To their discredit, the defense teams shared part of the blame they failed to introduce evidence or raise questions that would seriously weaken the prosecution’s case.


Proponents of various theories have since attempted to solve some of the questions left unanswered, by positing the involvement of not only the Nation of Islam but also other groups with possible motives and means, including the Harlem Drug Lords, the New York Police Department (NYPD), the CIA, and the FBI.

Harlem Drug Lords Theory

As a staunch and vocal opponent of narcotics, Malcolm often warned audiences against using the “weapon of the white man.” Based largely on the personal recollections of one man (Farmer), this theory claims Malcolm’s assassination was nothing more than a battle over turf, as Harlem drug dealers did not want him driving away customers.

The weakness of this theory lies in the fact that most of the evidence is anecdotal, and that Malcolm’s antidrug beliefs did little to curb drug use in Harlem, which continued to rise steadily in the early 1960s regardless of anything Malcolm said or did.

Theorists who believe the police played a direct role in the assassination often cite the issue of the “Second Man” as evidence (Norden). “The Second Man” refers to initial press reports that police arrested two suspects, Hayer and an unnamed individual.

Subsequent stories failed to mention the capture of two individuals, but never corrected the error of the first reports. Proponents of the “Second Man” theory argue that the second individual was actually a police operative, and as soon as the police realized this, all evidence of a second arrest disappeared.

While the unexplained disappearance of the “Second Man” looks suspicious on the surface, others explain it away as a simple error committed by the press trying to meet a story deadline. The “Second Man,” say some, could actually be Hayer himself. One officer arrested Hayer, but this officer gave him over to two other officers for transport.

The press might have questioned the first officer and then the other two officers, unaware that there was in fact only one suspect. Once they realized their error, the press corrected the information in their stories, overlooking the need to note the reason for the correction to their readers.

More compelling is the argument that the police played an important indirect role in allowing the assassination to occur. Although the police claimed to have a special detail of twenty officers guarding Malcolm the day of the assassination, only George Roberts, one of Malcolm’s bodyguards and also an undercover agent, was actually in the ballroom itself.

The rest of the detail were supposedly stationed in other rooms of the building and in the hospital across the street. By keeping such a low profile, none of the officers assigned to the detail was in any position to thwart the assassination attempt.

In fact, the officers credited with capturing and transferring Hayer were not a part of the special detail, but were simply passing through the area at the time. While the police may or may not have been directly responsible for Malcolm’s death, they were clearly negligent in their duties.

Some have argued that the CIA viewed Malcolm as a major threat to national security interests. In 1964, Malcolm’s travels in Africa sparked the interest of the government, specifically the CIA, who followed Malcolm and kept close tabs on his activities.

One of Malcolm’s objectives while in Africa was to garner the support of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). His attempts to lobby the OAU to pass a resolution strongly condemning the racial policy of the United States ultimately failed, but some suggest these attempts were a serious enough threat for the CIA to eliminate him.

While in Cairo, Malcolm suffered a case of food poisoning and had his stomach pumped in a local hospital. Although no proof exists that the CIA placed poison in his food, speculation surfaced after his death that the CIA might have been involved.

Internal CIA documents since released through the Freedom of Information Act indicate that the CIA had no direct role in any assassination attempts made on Malcolm X. In 1976, the CIA carried out an internal review of its files, and an in-house document dated 30 January 1976 concluded that the CIA only monitored Malcolm’s actions and never assumed any active role to stop him. Theorists question the truthfulness of such internal findings, but some question why the CIA would find it necessary to lie to itself eleven years after Malcolm’s death (Friedly).

Malcolm X was still in prison when the FBI started its first file on him in 1953. He initially caught their attention when he claimed affiliation with the Communist Party in a letter. Although Malcolm was never a Communist, merely mentioning his involvement was enough for the FBI to monitor him as a security threat. Over the next decade, the FBI would collect thousands of documents in Malcolm’s file.

Under J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI was notoriously against the civil rights movement, which Hoover believed was a front for Communists. The FBI developed different tactics to discredit African American organizations and leaders, eventually beginning the Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO) to combat groups it viewed as threats to national security.

Theorists point to two documents that suggest the FBI’s interest in discrediting Malcolm. The first is an internal memo dated 22 January 1969 that takes credit for the split between the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X. Exactly how much influence the FBI had in the split remains unclear, but its role was probably minor.

The second document, dated 4 March 1968, outlined COINTELPRO’s objective to “prevent the rise of a ‘messiah.’” The document confirmed the FBI’s fear that Malcolm might have developed into a messiah figure for the African American community, but using these documents to show the FBI’s involvement in Malcolm’s assassination is highly problematic. No credible evidence exists that the FBI ever did anything more than attempt to discredit Malcolm (Carson).

Nation of Islam Theory

Although Hayer offered a surprise confession during the original trial, he did not indicate motive or identify the names of his coconspirators. His claim that Butler and Johnson played no role in the assassination was ignored. During the trial Hayer denied any affiliation with the Nation of Islam, but once in prison, he resumed his Muslim beliefs.

In late 1977 and early 1978, Hayer offered two sworn affidavits, once again confirming the innocence of Butler and Johnson. With Elijah Muhammad’s death in 1975, Hayer claimed he no longer felt it necessary to hide the identities of his fellow assassins, whom he identified as Brother Benjamin, Leon X, Wilbur X, and William X.

The motive they all shared as NOI members was to silence Malcolm, the man dubbed by the NOI as “the chief hypocrite.” Malcolm threatened to spread not only the news of Muhammad’s adulterous relationships, but also the knowledge of the NOI’s rampant fiscal corruption.

While the best evidence suggests that the NOI had the most plausible motive and was ultimately responsible for Malcolm’s death, no direct proof links the assassination to Elijah Muhammad or anyone higher up in the organization than the men who committed the crime.

What is clear is that the harsh rhetoric used by various members of the NOI, such as statements made by Boston minister Louis X [Farrakhan], created a hostile environment for Malcolm, making his assassination a virtual certainty. Members of the NOI identified Malcolm as the enemy, and could easily infer that killing Malcolm was warranted and would be welcomed.


Watch the video: Malcolm X - Interview At Berkeley 1963 (December 2021).