How Betty Shabazz Persevered after Her Husband, Malcolm X, was Killed

Exactly one week before his assassination, a firebomb was thrown into the nursery where my sisters and I slept.

Dr. Shabazz was selected to participate on United States delegations with Presidents Ford, Carter, and Clinton; and she also served her country as a delegate to the Women’s International Conference in Bejing, China.

My mother accomplished a great deal in her life but what I will always remember most is her unwavering determination to protect her husband’s legacy from distortion. My father was a brilliant human rights strategist who was devoted to the cause of peace, equality, and freedom for all. Unfortunately, however, the legacy of Malcolm X was too often subject to unlawful, untruthful, and unfair reporting. In order to counter these effects, my mother worked with Pathfinder Press to ensure publication of reliable volumes that would accurately recount his life, words, and works. She established the Malcolm X Medical scholarship at Columbia University. She was relentless in her efforts to have my father honored with a United States postage stamp. The Malcolm X Black Heritage stamp was issued in 1999, two years after my mother passed away. Dr. Betty Shabazz worked with Mayor Edward Koch to rename Lenox Avenue in Harlem, to Malcolm X Boulevard. She also formed a coalition of community, political, and educational leaders to establish the Malcolm X Memorial Center at the Audubon Ballroom. She was determined to transform the place of fatal tragedy into one that would triumphantly honor her husband’s legacy.

When my mother passed away in 1997, President Clinton and many other leaders called with condolences and the United States flag was lowered to half-mast.

My mother fulfilled her husband’s expectation that she would ensure that his life and works are accurately recorded in history. “When you teach a man, you teach a community; when you teach a woman, you raise a nation.”

Ilyasah Shabazz is the third daughter of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz. She is the author of Growing Up X,’ and a motivational speaker. She’s spent much of her adult life working to preserve the legacy of both her parents through programs, exhibits, and books.


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