Malcolm X's daughter Ilyasah Shabazz: 'We want justice served for our father' Malcolm X's daughter Ilyasah Shabazz and attorney Ben Crump talk to Morning Edition's Leila Fadel about their plans to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the NYPD and other government agencies.

Law

Malcolm X's family is suing the CIA, FBI and NYPD

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1159207642/1159207643" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Who killed Malcolm X? Who was involved? These questions have been asked for more than half a century. And this week, the week that marks 58 years since the civil rights leader's assassination, his family announced plans to sue to find those answers.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ILYASAH SHABAZZ: For years, our family has fought for the truth to come to light concerning his murder.

FADEL: That's Ilyasah Shabazz, one of Malcolm X's daughters, declaring her and her sister's intention to sue the FBI, the CIA, the NYPD and other government agencies, accusing them of being involved in his killing. That announcement was made in the Audubon Ballroom in Upper Manhattan, where her father was killed. The family is seeking $100 million in damages. She spoke with me alongside civil rights attorney Ben Crump about why she and three of her sisters are taking this action now.

SHABAZZ: When I think of the challenges that my mother suffered witnessing the assassination of her husband, I think now is the best time that we have to seek justice for a man who gave his life for human rights. We'd like our father to receive the justice that he deserves.

BEN CRUMP: When you think about the fact that the New York Police Department, the city and the state paid tens of millions of dollars to the two gentlemen who were wrongfully convicted of assassinating Malcolm X, then you have to ask, what is due to those who suffered the most from the assassination of Malcolm X? That being his daughters and his family, who witnessed this awful, dastardly deed 58 years ago. The government had factual information and exculpatory information that they kept from the gentlemen who were wrongfully convicted and, more important for these matters, that they kept from his family.

FADEL: So the accusation here is that various government agencies knew about the plot to assassinate Malcolm X and let it happen?

CRUMP: That and the fact that for the first time, we're going to have individuals be compelled to raise their right hand and give sworn testimony as to what were the factors that led them to act wittingly in this tragic killing of this great thought leader of the 21st century.

FADEL: What questions do you still have - do you and your sisters, your family have about your father's killing?

SHABAZZ: We think the truth about the circumstances leading to the death of our father is important. I just want the history books to be accurately reflected. The legacy that is there now is so inaccurate. When I think about my mother, I think of the challenges that she endured raising her six daughters and safeguarding her husband's legacy. And now people are discovering the truth about Malcolm, that Malcolm had a profound reaction to injustice, that he had a lot of faith, that he worked so hard for the advancement of human rights. And it's the reason why he's still - his message is still sought after, because he spoke truth, and we know that truth is timeless.

FADEL: In your view, that legacy - the correct legacy - what should it say?

SHABAZZ: What always comes to mind - he had a quote in his letter from the hajj about keeping an open mind when he spoke about, you know, his search for truth, the spiritual path of truth.

CRUMP: J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI, said, we have to do something about Malcolm X. And less than a year later, he is assassinated. And it tells us that J. Edgar Hoover and the government were watching closely Malcolm's growth, and they were afraid of a - the rise of a Black messiah, as he often was quoted. And so when we think about - Martin Luther King's family brought legal action and were compensated by the government; Fred Hampton's family, the same. And now, 58 years later, finally, Malcolm X's family endeavors to do the same. And we understand that it is justice delayed, that we certainly don't believe it's going to be justice denied.

FADEL: Now, you were also there that day. You were very young, 2 years old, right?

SHABAZZ: That's right. My oldest sister, Attallah, was 6 six years old. My sister Qubilah was 4. And, you know, all of us were there. And my mother was pregnant with, you know, our youngest sisters, the twins.

FADEL: Yeah. Will this give your family, finally, some closure around the death of your father?

CRUMP: I'll go first. And then Ilyasah certainly can conclude. I think there is nothing that can relieve the pain and suffering that Malcolm X's daughters experienced due to the assassination of their young father at just 39 years old. But hopefully this can be some small measure of accountability, not just for them, but those who identify Malcolm X as inspiration - many people, especially Black people, around the world, who believed in his manifesto of Black people being able to have self-determination in this life.

FADEL: Ilyasah?

SHABAZZ: Yes. I think that this will provide some unanswered questions, and we would simply like our father to receive the justice that he deserves.

FADEL: Ilyasah Shabazz, Ben Crump, thank you so much for your time.

CRUMP: Thank you.

SHABAZZ: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN COLTRANE'S "ALABAMA")

Copyright © 2023 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.