- NAME: Betty Shabazz
- OCCUPATION: Educator, Civil Rights Activist, Nurse
- BIRTH DATE: May 28, 1934
- DEATH DATE: June 23, 1997
- EDUCATION: Tuskegee University, Brooklyn State College School of Nursing
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Detroit, Michigan
- PLACE OF DEATH: New York City, New York
- Maiden Name: Betty Dean Sanders
- AKA: Betty X
- AKA: Betty Shabazz
Best Known For
Betty Shabazz is best known as the wife of African-American nationalist leader Malcolm X, who was assassinated in New York City in 1965.
Betty & Coretta - Trailer (1:56)
Angela Bassett, who stars as Coretta Scott King in the Lifetime Original Movie, "Betty & Coretta," remembers and honors Martin Luther King. "Betty & Coretta" premieres Saturday, February 2nd 8/7c.
Mary J. Blige, who stars as Betty Shabazz in the Lifetime Original Movie, "Betty & Coretta," remembers and honors Martin Luther King. "Betty & Coretta" premieres Saturday, February 2nd 8/7c.
Focusing on the extraordinary women behind the two men who would change history, "Betty & Coretta" tells the similar true stories of Coretta Scott King , wife of Dr. Martin Luther King and Dr. Betty Shabazz, wife of Malcolm X.
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Betty Shabazz, also known as Betty X, was born Betty Dean Sanders. Although her birth records have been lost, she was likely born on May 28, 1934. Shabazz married Nation of Islam spokesman Malcolm X in 1958. After her husband’s assassination in 1965, Shabazz went on to a career in university administration and activism. She died from injuries sustained in a fire on June 23, 1997.
Betty Dean Sanders was born on May 28, 1934, to the teenaged Ollie Mae Sanders and Shelman Sandlin. While Betty spent most of her childhood in Detroit, she may have been born in Pinehurst, Georgia. At the age of 11, Betty began living with businessman Lorenzo Malloy and his wife, Helen. Helen Malloy was a local activist who organized boycotts of stores discriminating against African Americans.
After high school, Sanders studied at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. The extreme racism she encountered in the Jim Crow South shocked and frustrated her. In 1953, she left Alabama to study at the Brooklyn State College School of Nursing in New York City. While less overt, the racism that she observed in New York deeply affected Betty.
During her second year of nursing school, Sanders was invited by an older nurse’s aide to a dinner party at the National of Islam temple in Harlem. She enjoyed the evening but declined to join the organization at that time. During her next visit to the temple, Sanders met Malcolm X, who was her friend’s minister. Sanders began attending Malcolm X’s services. She converted in 1956, changing her surname to “X” to represent the loss of her African ancestry.
Betty X and Malcolm X were married on January 14, 1958, in Michigan. The couple eventually had six daughters. In 1964, Malcolm X announced that his family was leaving the Nation of Islam. He and Betty X, now known as Betty Shabazz, became Sunni Muslims.
On February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated while giving a speech at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City. Shabazz was in the audience near the stage with her daughters. Angry onlookers caught and beat one of the assassins, who was arrested on the scene. Eyewitnesses identified two more suspects. All three men, who were members of the Nation of Islam, were convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
Shabazz never remarried. She raised her six daughters alone, aided by annual royalties from her husband’s book The Autobiography of Malcolm X and other publications. In late 1969, Shabazz completed an undergraduate degree at Jersey City State College, followed by a doctoral degree in higher-education administration at the University of Massachusetts. She then accepted a position as an associate professor of health sciences at New York’s Medgar Evers College. She worked as a university administrator and fund-raiser until her death.
For many years, Shabazz and her family suspected the Nation of Islam and its leader, Louis Farrakhan, of arranging the assassination of her husband.
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