American Muslim minister and a human rights activist Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little aka el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz would have been 90 years yesterday. Often, when we talk about the history of Islam in America, we focus on the great men and their big ideas. Today, SheSpell.com takes time to recognize many women who were also part of the American freedom struggle.
Just as we remember Malcolm, we should acknowledge his half-sister Ella Collins, Betty Shabazz, his wife, and Malcolm X’s six daughters both women pioneered the establishment of Islam in America and carried the burden of maintaining Malcolm X’s legacy. If we are to the honor the man, we should honor the women who stood beside him.
Collins is well known in her Boston and Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center pays homage to her civil rights legacy with the Ella Collin’s Institute (ECI). She raised young Malcolm after his father was murdered and mother suffered a nervous breakdown. She continued to shape his character and world view even as he grew into a man, advising her younger brother to embrace orthodox Islam and make the pilgrimage to Mecca (in fact, it was Collins who paid for his Hajj, a life-altering journey that led to Malcolm X’s ousting from the Nation of Islam). Aside from her influence on Malcolm X’s spiritual evolution, she was a tireless civil rights activist in her own right.
After Malcolm X’s assassination, Collins maintained the Organization for Afro American Unity. To the end, she was a formidable player in the civil rights movement and in institution building in the Black American Muslim community.
Betty Shabazz (1934-1997)
After attending several Nation of Islam meetings and listening to Malcolm X preach, she joined the faith in 1956. Following a two-year courtship, the two married in 1958. Shabazz remained her husband’s confidant and advisor for nine years until in 1965, while Shabazz was pregnant with twins, Malcolm X was assassinated. With little time to grieve, Shabazz set about raising her six daughters alone. Ruby Dee and Juanita Poitier (the wife of Sidney Poitier) raised funds to provide the widow a home and the family used the royalties from the “Autobiography of Malcolm X” to support themselves. Shabazz returned to school and eventually earned a doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts in 1975. She became a college administrator and public speaker, often defending her husband’s legacy and discussing topics such as civil rights and racial tolerance. Not unlike her husband, her life also ended tragically, when she succumbed to her burn injuries from a fire her grandson ignited.
Malcolm X’s heirs
Attallah,Qubilah , Ilyasah , Gamilah,Malikah and Malaak Shabazz. Attallah became involved in the arts and public speaking, Gamilah hip hop, Qubilah became embroiled in a supposed plot to kill Louis Farrakhan, Ilyasah Shabazz became a public speaker, wrote “Growing Up X” and a children’s book titled “Malcolm Little: the Little Boy Who Grew up to Become Malcolm X.” Malcolm X’s daughters’ lives reflect both the turbulent the triumphant years following their father’s assassination.