On this dayFeb 23, 1965

Mourners Flock to Harlem Funeral Home to Honor Slain Leader, Malcolm X

Image | Associated Press

Born Malcolm Little and later known as el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, Malcolm X rose to the national stage as a leading Black voice in the 1950s and 1960s. After being appointed a minister and spokesman for the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X brought tens of thousands of new members to the religious organization in the mid-1900s. His powerful oration and innate charisma drew large crowds and supporters. His criticism of white society and calls for a Black nationalist movement drew controversy and opponents. Fearing his power and influence as a Black leader, the Federal Bureau of Investigation followed Malcolm X throughout his public life.

After a falling out with Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X left and started his own movement. As his popularity grew, so did the threats on his life. The dangers culminated when on February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was shot and killed by a group of men, assassinated while speaking at the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan. Just 39 years old, he left behind his wife, Betty Shabazz, and six young daughters–including twins born after his death.

Over the course of several days, beginning on February 23rd, thousands of people paid their respects to Malcolm X by viewing his body at Unity Funeral Home in Harlem. On February 27th, family, friends, and civil rights leaders including John Lewis, Bayard Rustin, and Andrew Young gathered at Malcolm X’s funeral, where actor and activist Ossie Davis gave the eulogy.

Malcolm X’s legacy far outlasted his life, and through his bestselling autobiography and powerful speeches, his beliefs inspired the later Black Power movement and remain influential on activism in America and throughout the world today.

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