Details Of Malcolm X’s Assassination May Never Be Known: Here’s Why

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Known as one of the most influential figures of the civil rights movement, Malcolm X's legacy continues to live on decades after his assassination.

As an activist, Malcolm preached Black power and self-determination to any ear that could hear. Throughout the 1950s, Malcolm remained steadfast in urging Black people to create their own structure and wealth and to fight for their freedom by means of self-defense rather than mainstream forms of nonviolent resistance.

Getting ready to speak another message of Black empowerment, on February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was shot 21 times and killed in Harlem, New York.

57 years later, as chaos ensued in the Audubon Ballroom, questions still surround the death of one of the most impactful Black figures of all time. Although February 2021's groundbreaking Malcolm X documentary led to the exoneration of two wrongfully convicted men, possible government and individual involvement remain unknown.

Immediately after Malcolm X's assassination, police dismissed the fatal incident as a "Black-on-Black" crime. Malcolm, a former prominent figurehead of the Nation of Islam (NOI), was on bad terms with the political-religious group, so it was assumed the shooting was rooted in tension with the organization.

Three members of the NOI — New Jersey's Talmadge Hayer (Mujahid Abdul Halim) and Harlem's Norman Butler (Muhammad Abdul Aziz) and Thomas Johnson (Khalil Islam) were originally convicted of Malcolm X's murder in 1966.

Hayer, found with a handgun clip while fleeing from the scene, admitted to his part in Malcolm X's assassination. However, no evidence linked Butler or Johnson to the killing despite their convictions, and Hayer even testified that the two weren't a part of the scheme to murder Malcolm.

Decades later, with renewed interest in the case from Netflix's Who Killed Malcolm X?, Aziz and Islam were exonerated of Malcolm X's assassination in November 2021 by a Manhattan district attorney. The pair served over 20 years in prison for the crime.

However, the district attorney's exoneration didn't identify who really killed Malcolm.

Experts continue to assert that the government and other members of New Jersey's faction of the NOI played a role in the activist's death. Like many 20th-century civil rights activists pushing for sweeping change, Malcolm X was under high surveillance by the FBI, police, and the Nation of Islam.

The explosive Netflix documentary pointed to four Nation of Islam members in Newark, New Jersey as suspects in Malcolm's assassination — a secret possibly known by the entire local NOI community.

Director of Who Killed Malcom X? Rachel Dretzin said in a statement, “What got us hooked was the notion that the likely shotgun assassin of Malcolm X was living in plain sight in Newark, and that many people knew of his involvement, and he was uninvestigated, unprosecuted, unquestioned.”

However, individuals who were previously implicated in the murder are now dead.

Zak Kondo, author of Conspiracys: Unravelling the Assassination of Malcolm X, said in a statement, “A whole generation went to their graves knowing important information that people like me will never know." Kondo added, “That’s the most frustrating part.”

Even if law enforcement wasn't directly involved in Malcolm's death, they failed to protect the leader knowing he was being targeted, experts say. Many FBI documents have also not been released publically, adding to the conspiracy.

Historian Zaheer Ali said in a statement, “The Nation of Islam was no friend of the U.S. government, and the U.S. government was no friend of the Nation of Islam. Ali continued, “So the question has to be put on the table: why would the U.S. government not pursue all viable leads into who was actually responsible for Malcolm’s assassination?"

Though the details of the assassination may never be known, through modern-day movements such as Black Lives Matter, Malcolm's message will continue to push Black people to attain justice and equality.

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