February 21, 1965: As Malcolm X prepared to address the Organization of Afro-American Unity in Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom, a disturbance broke out in the 400-person audience—a man yelled, « N*gga! Get your hand outta my pocket! »
At 3:10 P.M., just after he has begun to address the OAAU rally and his bodyguards moved to quiet the disturbance, a man seated in the front row rushed forward and shot him once in the chest with a double-barreled sawed-off shotgun. Two other men charged the stage and fired semi-automatic handguns, hitting Malcolm X several times.
He was pronounced dead at 3:30 pm, shortly after he arrived at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital.
According to the autopsy report, Malcolm X’s body had 21 gunshot wounds to his chest, left shoulder, and arms and legs; ten of the wounds were buckshot to his left chest and shoulder from the initial shotgun blast.
On February 19, 1965, Malcolm X told interviewer Gordon Parks that the Nation of Islam was actively trying to kill him.
Malcolm X was Muslim minister and human rights activist. To his admirers, he was a courageous advocate for the rights of Black people, a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its crimes against Black Americans.
Detractors accused him of preaching racism, Black supremacy, and violence. He has been called one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history.
Malcolm X’s father died—killed by white supremacists, it was rumored—when he was young, and at least one of his uncles was lynched. When he was 13, his mother was placed in a mental hospital, and he was placed in a series of foster homes. In 1946, at age 20, he went to prison for breaking and entering.
In prison, Malcolm X became a member of the Nation of Islam; after his parole in 1952, he quickly rose to become one of its leaders.
Malcolm X became the public face of the controversial group, but disillusionment with Nation of Islam head Elijah Muhammad led him to leave the Nation in March 1964.
After a period of travel in Africa and the Middle East, he returned to the United States, where he founded Muslim Mosque, Inc. and the Organization of Afro-American Unity.
In February 1965, less than a year after leaving the Nation of Islam, he was assassinated.