Betty Shabazz

Betty Shabazz

Original Name Sanders
Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan, USA
Death 23 Jun 1997 (aged 61)
New York, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
Burial Hartsdale, Westchester County, New York, USA
Plot Pinewood B, Grave 150
Memorial ID 4739 · View Source
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Educator, Social Reformer. A civil-rights advocate and widow of the slain activist Malcolm X, in 1965, after witnessing the assassination of her husband, she forged through the challenges to support her six children while earning a Ph. D., and spent the rest of her life preserving her husband's memory and teachings. In the process, she became a symbol of perseverance to black America. She was born Betty Sanders in Detroit, Michigan and was adopted and raised by a upper-middle-class Methodist family, who later sent her to Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in Alabama where she graduated. Later she moved to New York City to study nursing. It was in 1956, while attending the Nation of Isalm's Mosque No. 7 in Harlem, she met Malcolm X, the charismatic minister in charge. Two years later on January 14, 1958, they married. Through the early 1960s Malcolm X espoused the Nation of Islam's militant black nationalism and strongly anti-white views. In 1964, however he broke with the Nation of Islam and began to adopt a more moderate attitude toward black self-determination. That same year after his pilgrimage to Mecca, Malcolm and Betty became Sunni Muslims and Malcolm changed his name to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. Betty changed her name to Hajj Bahiyah Betty Shabazz. Also after his return Malcolm formed his own Muslim group, which resulted in him being vilified by the Nation of Islam. Louis Farrakhan was quoted as saying that Malcolm X was "worthy of death." By early 1965 her husband had received death threats, and the family's house in Elmhurst, Queens, was fire bombed. On Febuary 21, 1965, she sat with her four daughters in the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights, New York City, as her husband began to deliver an address to an audience of four hundred people. Suddenly shots rang out. As she covered her children, she saw Malcolm X slump to the floor. Three Black Muslim zealots were eventually convicted of the murder. In the years following her husband's death, she saw to it that her children learned about their father's key characteristic while struggling to earn a living and finding a new identity while raising six children on her own. She received royalties from "The Autobiography of Malcolm X", which was sold to its author Alex Haley and published in 1965, and she earned fees for consulting at various institutions, including Malcolm X College in Chicago. Seeing the need to upgrade her education, she returned to Brooklyn State Hospital of Nursing, where she earned certification as a registered nurse. Later she earned both a B.A. and an M.A. degree at Jersey City State College, and in 1975 she received her doctorate in education administration from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. From 1976 until her death Betty Shabazz worked at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, serving as assistant professor, director of institutional advancement, her principal duty being to raise funds for books and scholarships. She also devoted much of her time to community affairs. The suspicion of conspiracy beyond the three convicted assassins of Malcolm X lingered in her mind for many years. In a 1994 television interview she clearly indicated her belief that Louis Farrakhan had been involved in the assassination. On June 1, 1997, she suffered third degree burns over 80 percent of her body during a fire at her Yonkers apartment set by her grandson who had been living with her. She died in a New York hospital at age 61 from her injuries 22 days later.

Bio by: Curtis Jackson

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 16 Mar 1999
  • Find A Grave Memorial 4739
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Betty Shabazz (28 May 1936–23 Jun 1997), Find A Grave Memorial no. 4739, citing Ferncliff Cemetery and Mausoleum, Hartsdale, Westchester County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .