Malcolm X died from assassins’ bullets on February 21, 1965, at the age of 39. By that time, Malcolm X had started a non-religious activist group that worked with Martin Luther King, Jr, and collaborated with African presidents. His legacy inspired many activist organizations. U.S. Intelligence used similar tactics and personnel to target him as they used against MLK, the Black Panthers, and others.
Closer scrutiny of Malcolm X’s life leading up to his murder supports that U.S. Intelligence orchestrated his assassination. An FBI memorandum of 3/4/68, among other documents, eluded to how much U.S. Intelligence considered Malcolm X the top threat to the wealthiest white power structure. It discussed the “long range goals” including: “Prevent the rise of a ‘messiah’ who could unify, and electrify, the militant black nationalist movement. Malcolm X might have been such a ‘messiah’; … Martin Luther King, Stokely Charmichael and Elijah Muhammad all aspire to this…[particularly] King… should he abandon his supposed ‘obedience’ to ‘white liberal doctrines’ (nonviolence).”
Malcolm X’s radical activist evolution started with his father, Earle Little. Working as a preacher, Little led a Lansing, Michigan chapter of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). The UNIA gained widespread appeal in the 1920s and ’30s, reaching a million members amongst northern U.S. blacks.
Garvey originally started his UNIA with its black pride activism in his birth country of Kingston, Jamaica before re-starting it in Harlem. Garvey’s life appeared to reflect the effect of government oppression of many black leaders and groups to come after him. He first supported socialists and anti-colonialists worldwide. He had a successful international shipping company that helped distribute his Negro World newspaper to the Caribbean and Africa, where other UNIA chapters started. When both British and U.S. Intelligence officials (including emerging FBI leader J. Edgar Hoover) corroborated against him, he took on a more conservative, capitalist but nationalist stance to allow himself back into the U.S. Nonetheless, Garvey was shot, imprisoned, deported and exiled for his activist work.
Malcolm X was born in 1925. He would later describe race relations in his home of Lansing growing up. The town’s segregationist and racist rules included banning blacks from East Lansing after dark. When leaders such as Earl Little organized for any changes, racist whites threatened them. For example, the white Black Legion, Lansing’s Ku Klux Klan, threatened Little and then burned his house down in 1929.
In 1931, when Malcolm was 6, his father was found dead with a crushed skull and his body almost cut in half, reportedly due to being laid on street car tracks. Malcolm’s mother, Louise Little, paid for the funeral through a small insurance policy. A larger company wouldn’t pay on Little’s life insurance because they called it a suicide.
By the start of the ’60s, U.S. Intelligence wrote up to several reports a week on Malcolm X due to his radical influence over blacks. Malcolm’s influence over large numbers of American blacks first came through his Nation Of Islam (NOI) leadership as its national spokesman. The FBI began their surveillance file on him early in the 1950s. From the late ’50s on, Malcolm X’s leadership of the New York NOI mosque helped him meet with third world revolutionaries and African leaders in the New York-based United Nations.
The CIA grew concerned about Malcolm’s influence amongst these leaders. African leaders soon hosted Malcolm X and had him take part in their political decisions. From the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s, European nations had invaded and forcibly taken Africa’s riches of oil, diamonds and other minerals until independence movements drove the European colonizers out.
After WWII devastated most European countries, the chances for African independence movements to gain control of their countries were expedited and U.S. corporations needed to gain control of African wealth through more subtle means. Malcolm’s input about racism in the U.S. threatened to sabotage multinational corporations’ hundred million-dollar deals.
Malcolm X criticized America’s capitalist system as exploiting people in general but he believed that its historical racism kept people of color particularly disadvantaged. With a huge media presence, he expressed his ideas to large forums. However, NOI leader Elijah Muhammad disagreed with Malcolm’s leftist political activism. Muhammad restricted Malcolm’s political activities, leading him to split with the NOI in 1964.
African leaders helped fund Malcolm’s travels and he started a new activist group in ’64, which he named the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) in connection with the Organization of African Unity (OAU). African presidents had invited Malcolm as the only American in their OAU meetings because they recognized him as the leader of black American interests.
While Malcolm X maintained his position of militant self-defense, he also began directly collaborating with Martin Luther King’s group and other civil rights movement leaders. For example, Malcolm mentored Revolutionary Action Movement leader Maxwell Stamford. Stamford reported how Malcolm X saying that the non-equality of African women in African organizations hindered the liberation movement. Departing from the chauvinist stereotype of Muslims, Malcolm said he wanted to practice equality and give them more leadership in his OAAU.
Undercover police agent infiltrator Gene Roberts joined the OAAU at its inception and rose to the leadership ranks of its Harlem-based security force. Roberts worked for the New York Police department’s Bureau of Special Services (BOSS). The FBI directed BOSS actions as part of it’s Counter Intelligence Program (Cointelpro) against Malcolm X. On top of the hierarchy mandated by the National Security Act of 1947, CIA superiors supervised this entire U.S. Intelligence apparatus.
U.S. Intelligence had made several attempts on Malcolm’s life early in his development. In1958, New York detectives shot up Malcolm X’s office, for which the city settled with Malcolm in a $24 million lawsuit. FBI undercover agent, John X Ali, who infiltrated the Nation Of Islam (NOI), could provide the floor plan since he was living with Malcolm at the time.
Agent John X Ali also reportedly played a part in orchestrating the firebombing of Malcolm’s house in 1965. Ali had risen to a national secretary assignment, one of the highest leadership positions in the NOI. NOI leader Elijah Muhammad’s son, Wallace Muhammad, said several FBI undercover agents in the NOI national staff helped Ali make that rise, as also attested to by FBI documents.
Malcolm X believed that U.S. Intelligence further set up his near-fatal poisoning in Cairo, Egypt in late July of 1964. He said CIA agents made their presence obvious to try and intimidate him as he traveled through Africa. They didn’t want him to present his planned United Nations proposal, with African leaders, to declare that the U.S. was violating American blacks’ human rights.
At a Cairo restaurant, Malcolm said that just as he felt the poison in his food, he realized that he recognized the waiter as someone he saw in New York. Rushed to the hospital, he was barely saved by a stomach pumping. The attending doctor said there was poison in his food. Malcolm had been concerned about NOI death threats, but he knew that they didn’t have a global spy capacity.
Several other disclosures support Malcolm’s belief that this was a CIA attempt on his life. A high level African diplomat later said that the French Counter-Espionage Department reported that the CIA planned Malcolm’s murder, and France barred Malcolm for the first time in fear of getting scapegoated for the assassination. The FBI Director wrote a confidential memo on Malcolm’s travel plans through Britain and France. He sent it to the CIA Director, the Army Intelligence (Intel) chief, the Naval Intel Director, and the Air Force Counterintel chief, as well as Intel chiefs in London and Paris. One such memorandum on Malcolm and African leaders went directly to the CIA director of covert action, Richard Helms, who had a key role in assassination plots.
Furthermore, FBI and police action on the day of Malcolm X’s assassination, February 21, 1965, supports their role in it. An FBI document said [undercover agent] John Ali met with Talmadge Hayer (a.k.a. Thomas Hagan), one of the gunmen that shot Malcolm X, the night before the assassination. Hotel information on Ali’s stay in New York those days supports this. At the Audubon Ballroom hall where Malcolm X gave his last speech, uniformed police left the area. At every other speech by Malcolm, they had uniformed officers inside and outside the halls.
Gene Roberts revealed his undercover police agent status at a trial against the Black Panthers in 1971. Roberts had followed members of Malcolm X’s OAAU as they started the New York Panther chapter. Under cross-examination at the trial, Roberts said he was the first to arrive at Malcolm’s body and he “proceeded to give Malcolm X mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.” But Roberts revealed more, in interviews decades later, which supports that his real role appeared to be checking Malcolm X’s vital signs to confirm the assassination’s success.
Roberts described the actions of his wife, Joan Roberts, who was with him at the event. When Malcolm X was shot, Malcolm’s wife Betty Shabazz first tried to cover her daughters and screamed, “They’re killing my husband!” When the shooting stopped, Shabazz, a nurse, went to run to her husband, but Joan Roberts grabbed her. Shabazz struggled to get free, threw Roberts into a wall and ran to Malcolm. Gene Roberts said he was there checking Malcolm’s pulse. He turned to Shabazz and said Malcolm was dead.
Roberts admission bore even more importance due to its historical parallels. Martin Luther King’s family attorney, William Pepper, extensively documented revelations on the role of undercover infiltrator, Military Intelligence agent Marrell McCullough in Martin Luther King’s assassination. McCullough disclosed how he raced to and knelt over Martin Luther King as he lay bleeding from the fatal shooting.
Pepper noted that McCollough was “apparently checking him for life signs,” making sure the assassination was successful and signaling to Military Intelligence that “the army snipers there as backup shooters [weren’t needed as]…the contract shooter [hadn’t]…failed to kill King.” They then communicated to the Special Force Group snipers, who were waiting for their shooting orders, that they could disengage.
Police officials’ admissions and later events supported the malevolent roles of the Roberts. Without Gene Roberts’ disclosure at a trial six years later, no one would have known he worked undercover for the BOSS police intelligence unit. New York’s Herald Tribune also said a “high police official” confirmed that several undercover BOSS agents were in the Ballroom audience at the assassination of Malcolm X.
Police and media’s cover-up actions were extensive. For example, New York’s Herald Tribune and The New York Times reported that just after the shooting of Malcolm, police detained two people that were grabbed by the crowd. A later Herald Tribune edition said the crowd only grabbed one person, without acknowledging their earlier account.
The New York Times later edition dropped the second suspect from its subheading, but still quoted Patrolman Thomas Hoy who said that, while one subject was grabbed by Malcolm’s supporters, he grabbed a second suspect being chased by some people. Hoy further said, “the crowd began beating me and the suspect” in the Ballroom. In the following days, no mention was made of the second suspect in the mass of media’s accounts.
The media also largely ignored the circumstances around the death of Malcolm’s close ally, Leon 4X Ameer. Mainstream media alleged that he died of an overdose of sleeping pills less than twenty days after Malcolm’s assassination. This happened just after Leon 4X announced plans to produce tapes and documents proving that the government was responsible for Malcolm X’s assassination.
Soon after Malcolm’s murder, a partially deleted FBI memo noted the CIA’s desire to get rid of Malcolm. The memo also offered a key motive. It said a Life magazine reporter agreed with a source that the reporter should “check out Washington and the CIA because they wanted Malcolm out of the way because he ‘snafued’ African relations for the U.S.” risking deals worth vast amounts of money for top American corporations.
Update Nov 2021: After more than half a century, two men are set to be cleared in the assassination of Malcolm X.
CBS2’s Alice Gainer on Wednesday visited a site in Washington Heights that used to be the Audubon Ballroom. It’s where Malcolm X was assassinated 56 years ago. It’s now a memorial and educational center.
There is now word that after a nearly two-year investigation the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is saying the wrongful convictions of two men will be vacated on Thursday.
Malcolm X was one of the civil rights era’s most compelling and controversial figures. The influential Black leader was assassinated as he began a speech in the Audubon Ballroom on Feb. 21, 1965.
Muhammad Aziz, Khalil Islam and a man later known as Thomas Hagan were convicted of murder the next year and sentenced to life in prison.
Hagan said he was one of three gunmen who shot Malcolm X, but testified that neither Aziz nor Islam were involved.
Hagan was paroled in 2010. Aziz was released in 1985 and is now 83 years old. Islam was released in 1987. He professed his innocence before he died in 2009.
“I’m a righteous innocent individual, a real human being,” he said at the time.
“The events that brought us to court today should never have occurred; those events were and are the result of a process that was corrupt to its core — one that is all too familiar — even in 2021. While I do not need this court, these prosecutors, or a piece of paper to tell me I am innocent, I am glad that my family, my friends, and the attorneys who have worked and supported me all these years are finally seeing the truth we have all known, officially recognized,” Aziz said in a statement released through the Innocence Project. “I am an 83-year-old man who was victimized by the criminal justice system, and I do not know how many more years I have to be creative. However, I hope the same system that was responsible for this travesty of justice also take responsibility for the immeasurable harm it caused me.”
But now, the Manhattan DA says the two men, who always maintained their innocence, will be exonerated.
A two-year investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney came after a Netflix series called “Who Killed Malcolm X” helped lead to the exoneration of the two men.
It’s believed the FBI and NYPD withheld key evidence in this case that would likely have led to an acquittal against two men who served 20 years in prison. That evidence apparently pointed to other possible killers.
Abdur-Rahman Muhammad’s years-long investigation of the murder was the center of the Netflix documentary. He told CBS2’s Dick Brennan the investigation was a sham from day one.
“They cleared the ballroom and they had a scheduled dance that evening, so there was actually a party that took place in the very ballroom where Malcolm X was assassinated just a few hours earlier,” Muhammad said.
“Why do you think that happened so quickly?” Brennan asked.
“You can see very clearly that there was no real desire to solve this murder … Even the rostrum with the bullet holes in it was just flung into the basement, where it remained for another 20 years or so,” Muhammad said.
“There were still chalk marks around the bullet holes,” said Phil Bertelsen, the documentary’s producer/director.
He says the FBI had plenty of eyes and ears in the ballroom during the shooting, but the testimony was never heard.
“Nine informants, FBI informants … and none of that testimony made its way to the prosecution,” Bertelsen said.
“None of those government informants were called to the stand, and they weren’t even brought to the attention of the prosecution,” Muhammad said.
“If I wanted to do it, I couldn’t have done it, so that means they knew what they were doing when they put me in jail,” Aziz said.
“It’s an incredibly sad situation where they were left as the patsies to one of the crimes of the century,” State Sen. James Sanders said.
Sanders says the full story still hasn’t been told.
“Who sent them? Not just the idiots pulling the trigger, but who were the main conspirators? Who are the ones who sat and organized all of these things?” he said.
“Who may still be alive,” Brennan said.
“Yes,” Sanders said.
Sanders wants money allocated for a further investigation, and he says he wants all the records in this case held for further study.
An official news conference announcing the exonerations happens Thursday.