Little changed his name to Malcolm X, explaining in his autobiography that the “X” symbolized the removal of his “slave name” bestowed upon him by the owners of his enslaved ancestors. In 1952, Malcolm X was asked by NOI leader the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, to become its national spokesperson. So effective was Malcolm X in this role that his words shook white America to its core.
After a quote about John F. Kennedy’s assassination and revelations about Muhammad’s personal life, Malcolm X announced a break from the group in 1964. He embraced Sunni Islam and changed his name to Ej-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. Shabazz still supported nationalism but through a more humanist viewpoint. After forming his own organization, Shabazz and his supporters began to grow in New York and across the nation.
The split from the NOI allegedly led to an order to assassinate Shabazz. On February 21, 1965 at Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom, Shabazz was speaking to his Organization of Afro-American Unity group. Three armed men rushed a stage area where he was speaking, shooting him a total of 21 times.
Three men who were members of the Nation of Islam were arrested for his murder. Malcolm X was survived by his wife Betty Shabazz and their six daughters, Qubilah, Attallah, llyasah, Gamilah, Malikah and Malaak Shabazz,