Two icons of the 1960s used the term “by any means necessary”: the French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre and Black Muslim activist Malcolm X.
Sartre first used the term in his 1963 play “Dirty Hands,” and Malcolm X used it during the last year of his life in 1965 in lectures and media interviews. “Both Jean-Paul and Malcolm were using the phrase in the context of giving/restoring rights to the people that had been taken away. Whether it be class, race, or both.” However, it was Malcolm’s zealous use of the term that frightened white America.
The “by any means necessary” term, like the Black Lives Matter term today, either frightened or, at the very least, made white people in America uncomfortable. This was especially so considering Malcolm was an intelligent Black Muslim who demanded racial equality and political freedom when racism and segregation reigned supreme. Unlike his non-violent counterpart, Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X did not preach for human equality and racial justice. He demanded both in no uncertain terms.
Malcolm X Strikes Fear in FBI Director Hoover
The term not only frightened but infuriated the late FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. The disgraced former director—renowned for his homophobic, misogynic, and racist attitude—saw the term as dangerous because of the reception it received from Malcolm’s followers and the larger Black community. It also clearly demonstrated that Malcolm was neither afraid nor intimidated by law enforcement’s guns, clubs, and water hoses.
In 1943, at age eighteen, Malcolm X, whose name was Malcolm Little, illustrated his contempt for governmental authority when he intentionally informed the Boston draft board that he wanted to “fight for the Japanese” and kill white people. That “street hood” declaration made by a teenager known as “New York Red” earned Malcolm Little a 4-F military designation for being “mentally unfit.”
Malcolm X had his first major run-in with the law in 1946. He was convicted of breaking and entering, and firearms possession. He was given a 10-year sentence and placed in the Massachusetts prison system, where he studied and read extensively and joined the black Nation of Islam (NOI). Two years later, he struck up a correspondence with the leader of the NOI, a Black liberation movement founded in 1930 that subscribed to the religious teachings of traditional Islam.
Following release from prison in 1952, with the blessing of Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm went to Detroit, where he helped transform the NOI into a 40,000-member organization with 49 temples across the country. Through his oratory skills and keen intelligence, Malcolm became a charismatic leader among Black people in America, especially in New York City where Elijah Muhammad had sent him to do NOI work.
The savage beating of an NOI member named Johnson Hinton by the New York Police Department (NYPD) in 1957 elevated Malcolm to legendary status. A crowd of several thousand people gathered outside the police station to protest the beating. Malcolm amazed and terrified the NYPD after he stepped outside the station and dispersed the crowd with a mere wave of his hand. NYPD Commissioner Stephen Kennedy immediately ordered his department to keep Malcolm under constant surveillance.
Seven years earlier (1950) Malcolm X drew the attention (and ire) of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover after he wrote a letter from prison telling President Harry S. Truman that he was a “communist” who had tried to enlist in the Japanese Army.
Commissioner Murphy and Director Kennedy jointed forces in their surveillance of Malcolm after the Johnson Hinton incident.
“The Hate that Hate Produced”
Hoover’s interest and surveillance of Malcolm dramatically increased after famed CBS television journalist Mike Wallace produced and aired a five-part documentary in 1959 titled “The Hate that Hate Produced.” The sensationalized, one-sided series embedded the NOI into white American fear and elevated Malcolm as a Black leader who would fight for black people “by any means necessary.”
Malcolm X deliberately made himself the opposite of Dr. King’s “non-violent civil rights movement” of the 1960s. He did not preach violence but warned white people that “chickens come home to roost.”
Silence Him By Any Means Necessary
By 1965, after a highly publicized split with the NOI, the conversion of his famous protégé Muhammad Ali ,and his growing worldwide audience through his newly-formed Afro-American Unity movement, Hoover and then NYPD Commissioner Michael J. Murphy agreed that Malcolm X had to be silenced “by any means necessary.” His religious and political philosophy had evolved, and he was gaining broader public support and influence. He had to be stopped.
Three men assassinated Malcolm X on February 21, 1965, in the Audubon Ballroom, located in Washington Heights in New York City, as he prepared to deliver a lecture to a packed house. As part of his speech, he was planning to disclose the names of the people trying to kill him.
Like the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers and Dr. King in the 1960s, the assassination of Malcolm X remains shrouded in mystery, conjecture, and conspiracy. What is certain is this: none of the assassinations of these four iconic American social and political leaders occurred in an isolated vacuum.
Here are the reputable facts about Malcolm X assassination as reported in news outlets, legal journals, books, and documentaries:
- Just as Malcolm took the stage and stood before a rostrum greeting the gathering with “Brothers and sisters …,” a diversion of some sort erupted at the end of the ballroom allowing three men to rush the stage firing their weapons, including a sawed-off shotgun. Malcolm was shot three times in the chest, with one assassin firing a shot at Malcolm’s head that struck him in the cheek. He remained standing a few moments before he collapsed and died.
- Three NOI members—Khalil Islam (aka Thomas 15X Johnson), Muhammad A. Aziz (aka Norman 3X Butler) and Mujahid Abdul Halim (aka Thalmage Hayer)—were arrested, convicted of murder in March 1966, and sentenced to 20 years to life in the New York prison system for the assassination.
- NYPD Commissioner Murphy and FBI Director Hoover had undercover agents in the Audubon Ballroom audience when Malcolm was murdered.
- The FBI and NYPD had irrefutable evidence that Islam and Aziz were not involved within hours of the murder.
- Hoover ordered his agents involved in the investigation to tell the undercover operatives not to disclose their identity with local law enforcement.
- The FBI had documents that two other men, not Islam and Aziz, were involved in the assassination.
- NYPD had information from a local reporter that Malcolm would be assassinated at the ballroom and failed to act on that information.
- Manhattan District Attorney Frank S. Hogan deliberately withheld the exculpatory evidence that Islam and Aziz were not involved, despite a U.S. Supreme Court decision (Brady v. Maryland) requiring that such evidence be disclosed.
- Aziz was paroled in 1985, and Islam was paroled in 1987.
- Islam died in 2009 at age 74.
- Halim was paroled in 2010. He has always strenuously maintained that Aziz and Islam were not involved in Malcolm X’s assassination and named the other two assassins in 1977.
Framed, Wrongful Convictions Stemming From Corruption
In the wake of the recently released Netflix original documentary “Who Killed Malcolm X” and with continuing investigative coverage by the New York Times, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance conducted an intensive investigation, with the cooperation of the NYPD and the FBI. Vance eventually concluded that the two law enforcement agencies had framed Aziz and Islam for the murder of Malcolm X.
On November 18, 2021, in conjunction with an agreement with the New York-based Innocence Project and attorneys for Aziz and Islam, D.A. Vance moved to vacate the convictions of the two men and declared them exonerated of any involvement in Malcolm X’s assassination. The exoneration of Islam comes nearly 13 years after his death.
In a statement through his attorneys, Aziz informed the public: “My wrongful conviction was a terrible injustice that resulted from the deliberate and dishonest actions of corrupt officials. It has caused unspeakable harm to my family and me. The lost time and relationships with my family and loved ones can never be recovered.”
What happened to Aziz and Islam may be far worse than injustice. It was a crime.
In February of 2021, through renowned attorney Benjamin Crumb, Malcolm X’s family released a January 25, 2011 letter written by former NYPD officer Raymond Wood. Wood’s letter contains the explosive allegation that in the days leading up to Malcolm X’s assassination, he was coerced by NYPD supervisors to enlist members of the activist’s security detail to assist in the assassination plot.
Crumb said Wood’s letter and other evidence demonstrate that the FBI (Director Hoover) and the NYPD (Commissioner Murphy) “conspired” to murder the Black Muslim activist. Hoover had worked unscrupulously since 1950 to silence Malcolm X “by any means necessary,” even if it meant assassinating him. He probably achieved that end on February 21, 1965, in the Audubon Ballroom.
FBI Director and Police Commissioner Sacrificed Lives to Conceal Involvement
The evidence is compelling that Director Hoover and Commissioner Murphy deliberately sacrificed the lives of two innocent men, along with the lives of their families and loved ones, to conceal their criminal involvement in the assassination of Malcolm X.
The corpses of Hoover and Murphy cannot be posthumously indicted for their crimes, but let history reveal them for the corrupt criminals they were.