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Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture > Malcolm X: A Search for Truth

Malcolm X to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, 1964–65

“…on this pilgrimage, what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to re-arrange much of my thought-patterns previously held, and to toss aside some of my previous conclusions. …I have always kept an open mind, which is necessary to the flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent search for truth.”
The Autobiography of Malcolm X

By January 1965, Minister Malcolm had been “silenced” and stripped of his ministry (supposedly for ninety days) by Elijah Muhammad for his comment after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He had used the phrase “chickens coming home to roost” in his response to a reporter’s question after a speech. By the time those days passed, Malcolm X had made the momentous decision to strike out on his own because he knew the forces against him in the Nation of Islam were now insurmountable—Elijah Muhammad believed he had betrayed him. But he had to have an organizational foundation from which to do his work.

First he formed the Muslim Mosque, Inc. (MMI), in March. By June he realized he needed a secular political organization to attract the broad group of non-Muslim supporters he’d always had. This became the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), which he saw as spearheading a drive to charge the United States, before the United Nations, with violating the human rights of black people—a move the U.S. government considered dangerous to its interests. Personally, he was looking to traditional Islam for answers to the spiritual quest on which he found himself now that he was out of the Nation.

Malcolm X traveled to the Middle East, Africa, and Europe, and in letters and interviews he shared his experiences, at times shocking even his followers in the U.S. He made the hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca, where his vision of humanity was transformed, as he saw that Islam could unite Muslims of every race and nationality. He himself was transformed: having made the hajj, he became El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz.

Back home in Harlem, through both of his organizations, he tried to strengthen ties to the civil rights movement and local community leaders struggling around issues such as housing and education. Something much more sinister also occupied him. Threats, assaults, and murder attempts on his and his followers’ lives had become a regular occurrence, escalating as time went on. He had publicly revealed Elijah Muhammad’s transgressions, and the Nation was in a retaliatory mood. On February 21, 1965, the day he was assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom, Malcolm X was also under surveillance by local and federal authorities.

The search for truth, on which this global man of politics and faith embarked, continues.



January - Visits Cassius Clay training camp in Miami, Florida, with family.

January–February - Cassius Clay defeats Sonny Liston for World Heavyweight Championship. Clay goes public as Muhammad Ali.

February - Former assistant at New York mosque says mosque official asked him to wire bomb in Malcolm X’s car; beginning of ongoing series of threats and harassment until end of his life.

February 26 - Petitions Elijah Muhammad by letter and telephone for reinstatement.

March - Starts visiting Dr. Mahmoud Youssef Shawarbi, director of Islamic Center of New York, for instruction in Islam.

March 8 - Announces break with Nation of Islam and Elijah Muhammad.

March 10 - Nation requests family vacate East Elmhurst, Queens, house and return all property.

March 12 - Announces formation of Muslim Mosque, Inc., as religious and political organization.

March 16 - Starts getting involved in local black New York City political struggles.

March 26 - Meets Martin Luther King, Jr., for only time, at U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

March 29–April 12 - Delivers “The Ballot or the Bullet” speech in New York City, Cleveland, and Detroit.

April 8 - Nation files for eviction of family from East Elmhurst house.

April 10 - Muhammad Speaks runs cartoon showing Malcolm X’s decapitated head rolling toward a pile of skulls. In same issue his brother Philbert X denounces him.

April 13–May 21 - Travels to nine Middle East and African countries. Makes the hajj in Mecca and sends letter describing his move beyond black/white perspective to more humanistic vision; signs letter “El-Hajj Malik EI-Shabazz.” Guest of Prince Faisal in Saudi Arabia and meets with President Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana.

May 29 - FBI visits him, and he tape records encounter.

June–August - Freedom Summer project in Mississippi, led by Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), launches voter registration and education campaign with help of hundreds of volunteer students and others. James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner disappear, later found murdered by Ku Klux Klan members.

June 26 - Writes open letter to Elijah Muhammad calling for peace; published in New York Post.

June 28 - Announces founding of secular group, Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), separating political from religious activity, to appeal to broad black constituency.

July 1 - Family’s fourth child, Gamilah Lamumba, born.

July 2 - President Lyndon B. Johnson signs 1964 Civil Rights Act, providing legal protection against discrimination in all aspects of public life.

July 9–November 24 - Tours Africa, Middle East, and London. Visits fourteen nations and meets with at least eight heads of state and numerous other leaders. Petitions Organization of African Unity (OAU) summit in Cairo to bring cause of American blacks to United Nations as human rights issue.

July–August - Riots break out in New York, New Jersey, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

August 22 - Fannie Lou Hamer delivers televised testimony to Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, demanding right of new Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) to represent disfranchised people of her state.

Late November - Reunites with mother and family in Michigan, after her release from Kalamazoo State Hospital.

November 30 - Travels to London for debate on “extremism” at Oxford Union on December 3.

December 16 - Speaks at Harvard Law School forum.

December 20 - OAAU rally, Audubon Ballroom, in support of Fannie Lou Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP).


January 19 - In Toronto, Canada, for television appearance.

February 3–4 - Speaks at Tuskeegee Institute and at SNCC event at Brown Chapel, Selma, Alabama.

February 5–13 - Visits London to address First Congress of Council of African Organizations on February 8 and London School of Economics on the 11th.

February 9 - Flies to Paris to address Congress of African Students, but is refused entry; returns to London.

February 14 - Family home in East Elmhurst firebombed in early morning hours. Flies to Detroit to make what will be his last major speech.

February 15 - OAAU rally, Audubon Ballroom; 600 attend.

February 18 - Evicted from home in East Elmhurst; moves household out. Gives last speech, “The Black Revolution and Its Effects Upon the Negroes of the Western Hemisphere,” at Barnard College, Columbia University.

February 21 - At 3:10 p.m., gunned down as he begins speaking at Audubon Ballroom. Talmadge Hayer (aka Thomas Hagan) arrested.

February 23 - New York Mosque No. 7 burns in early morning hours.

February 27 - Ossie Davis delivers eulogy at funeral service at Faith Temple Church of God in Christ in Harlem. Buried at Ferncliff Cemetery, Hartsdale, New York.

March - Betty Shabazz performs the hajj in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

March 11 - Grand jury indicts Talmadge Hayer, Norman 3X Butler, and Thomas 15X Johnson for murder of Malcolm X.

September 30 - Family’s twin daughters, Malaak and Malikah, born.

November - The Autobiography of Malcolm X, written with Alex Haley, published.


April 14 - Three accused men sentenced to life imprisonment for murder of Malcolm X, after two-month trial and despite testimony from Hayer that does not implicate either Butler or Johnson.

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