After Malcolm X was gunned down in 1965 at Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom, three men — who viewed him as an enemy and hypocrite for renouncing the Nation of Islam — were quickly arrested and prosecuted. The case was closed for law enforcement, but many have doubted that police captured the right men.
Marable, who began studying Malcolm X in 1969 and founded the African American studies program at Columbia University, uses the biography, “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention,” to search for answers and name five alleged conspirators. Only one has served time for the crime.
While the 592-page book also examines Malcolm X’s life, it is the research into his death, which publisher Viking Press describes as “the never-before-told true story of his assassination,” that could prove most controversial. Marable goes further than any other mainstream scholar in pointing to specific individuals who he alleges plotted to kill the minister. The man who fired the first and deadliest shot, Marable alleges, is still alive, while another conspirator has died. The book does not include definitive information about the fate or whereabouts of the other two.
“Here is a real assassination, with real assassins who are out there,” said David Garrow, an American historian and author of a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Martin Luther King Jr. “It’s never been pursued.” Garrow, who in 1993 wrote an opinion piece titled “Does Anyone Care Who Killed Malcolm X?,” called Marable’s book a “huge achievement.”
Marable alleges that one of the killers is 72-year-old Al-Mustafa Shabazz, a Newark resident once known as William Bradley.
His wife, Carolyn Kelley Shabazz, answered the phone Sunday but referred questions to an attorney.
“It’s unfair to try someone in public based upon an allegation,” said J. Edward Waller, the Shabazzes’ attorney. “He was not directly or indirectly involved with the assassination of Malcolm X.”
Waller said Al-Mustafa Shabazz, who has not read the book, is reviewing his legal options.
Three members of the Nation of Islam, the religious group for which Malcolm X was chief spokesman before he repudiated it in the year before his death, were convicted in the killing. Two of the men, both paroled in the late 1980s, maintained their innocence. Talmadge Hayer, who was released last year, was caught at the scene by Malcolm X’s supporters. He later confessed to his involvement, declared the two other convicted men innocent and in a court affidavit named four accomplices who have never been tried.