Feb 21, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Malcolm X family unveils letter alleging NYPD, FBI assassination link

Malcolm X is shown with the dome of the Connecticut Capitol behind him as he arrived in Hartford for a two day visit.

Malcolm X in Hartford, Conn., in June 1963. Photo: Bettmann/Contributor

The family of Malcolm X released a letter Saturday purportedly written by a now-deceased police officer alleging that the New York Police Department and FBI were behind the 1965 assassination of the Black civil rights leader.

Why it matters: Scholars and civil rights advocates have long said men charged with killing Malcolm X, later known as el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, in New York’s Audubon Ballroom were wrongly convicted. Some have alleged police and federal agents played a role in his death.

Driving the news: The family made public the letter attributed to Raymond Wood, a former undercover NYPD officer, who confessed before dying that the NYPD and FBI conspired in the assassination.

  • Wood wrote that he was ordered to see that Malcolm X would have no door security in the Harlem building where he was scheduled to speak.
  • Daughters of Malcolm X released details of the letter at the former site of their father's assassination and said they waited until Wood's death to speak about it over fears of retaliation from authorities.
  • "Any evidence that provides greater insight into the truth behind that terrible tragedy should be thoroughly investigated," Ilyasah Shabazz, one of Malcolm X's daughters, said at the press conference.

Flashback: Muhammad Aziz, Mujahid Abdul Halim and Khalil Islam were convicted of killing the civil rights leader and sentenced to life in prison.

  • Aziz and Islam denied they were connected to any plot to kill Malcolm X. Halim had said the two were not involved.
  • Malcolm X was killed after he publicly broke with Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad and while he was being closely monitored by the FBI.

Between the lines: Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s office announced last year his office would revisit the 1965 assassination following the release of a Netflix series questioning the investigation into Malcolm X's death.

NYPD said in a statement it has “provided all available records relevant to that case to the District Attorney."

  • "The department remains committed to assist with that review in any way."
  • The FBI declined to comment.

The big picture: Malcolm X is seeing a renewed interest amid the Black Lives Matter movement and calls from advocates to diversify school history lessons to tackle systemic racism.

  • "The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X," written by the late journalist, Les Payne, and his daughter, Tamara, won the 2020 National Book Award for Nonfiction.
  • The book shows how Malcolm X's intellectual development as a Black nationalist stemmed partly from his preacher father and his multilingual mother, who worked as a journalist.
  • The book also uncovered Malcolm X's experience attending a school with white students where he became popular and how he learned to grow better marijuana from Mexican immigrants in Michigan.
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