Once Upon a Time in America (Feb 21)

Today in American history in 1965, civil rights activist Malcolm X is assassinated in New York City during a speech at the Audubon Ballroom.


Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska in 1925. His father was a Baptist speaker and the leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association.

Malcolm moved to Harlem, New York City in 1943 and began committing crimes, eventually landing him in prison in 1945.

During his time in prison, he converted to the Islam religion, particularly the Nation of Islam movement led by Elijah Muhammad.

He was paroled in August 1952 and began working for the Nation of Islam in Chicago, Illinois. He preached in various other locations such as Detroit, Boston, and Philadelphia and eventually ending up back home in Harlem, where he became the leader of Temple Number 7. During his ministry, he was being investigated by the FBI.

During his ministry with the Nation of Islam, he promoted standard Nation teachings such as black superiority over whites and the eventual extermination of the white race.

He began to become disillusioned with the Nation in 1962 over various events such as rumors that its leader, Elijah Muhammad, was involved in extramarital affairs and other sexual misconduct. These rumors were confirmed by Elijah himself in 1963. Malcolm broke with the Nation in March 1964.

Following his break with the Nation, he founded the Muslim Mosque Inc, the Organization of Afro-American Unity, and converted to the Sunni faith of Islam. Shortly after, he took a pilgrimage to Mecca, where he discovered the equality of all followers of Islam.

In February 1965, he predicted that the Nation of Islam wanted to kill him. He was shot with a shotgun in the Audubon Ballroom on February 21 during a speech to the Organization of Afro-American Unity. He was pronounced dead at 3:30 pm that day at the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. The autopsy showed that he had 21 gunshot wounds to the chest.

Witnesses identified 3 Nation of Islam members as the shooters. All 3 were convicted of Malcolm’s murder in March 1966 and sentenced to life in prison.

Malcolm X has been portrayed in film numerous times:

James Earl Jones played him in the 1977 Muhammad Ali film, The Greatest.
Morgan Freeman played him in the 1981 TV film Death of a Prophet.
Mario Van Peebles played him in the 2001 biopic Ali.
He was played by Denzel Washington in the 1992 biopic based on the The Autobiography of Malcolm X, simple titled Malcolm X.


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