With February celebrated as Black History Month, the life and death of black leader Malcolm X, aka El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, deserves a new examination. 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.