Shabazz, Betty

views updated

Shabazz, Betty

May 28, 1936
June 23, 1997

Betty Shabazz, the widow of Malcolm X who subsequently built a career of her own as an educator and activist, was born Betty Sanders in Detroit, Michigan, and was adopted by the Malloy's, a neighborhood family. After attending Tuskegee Institute, she moved to New York and transferred to Jersey City State College, where she received a B.A. degree. Sanders then began training at the Brooklyn State Hospital School of Nursing, where she received her R.N. in 1958. During this period she joined the Nation of Islam and changed her name to Betty X (she became Betty Shabazz in 1964). She also met the charismatic leader Malcolm X, with whom she struck up a friendship. The couple married in 1958.

During the following seven years, as Malcolm X grew into a national figure, Shabazz rarely saw him, although they remained on good terms. Shabazz gave birth to their six daughters during this period. In 1965 Shabazz and four of the girls were listening to Malcolm X speak at New York's Audubon Ballroom as he was assassinated. Following the death of her husband, Shabazz cut her ties with the Nation of Islam and became an orthodox Muslim.

Following her husband's death, Shabazz earned a Ph.D. in educational administration from the University of Massachusetts. She worked for two decades as director of public relations for Medgar Evers College in New York. During these years she also served as the guardian of Malcolm X's legacy. In 1995 Shabazz began a weekly radio program on New York's WLIB. Two years later, she was badly burned in a fire set by her twelve-year-old grandson Malcolm to protest his mother's absence. Despite many community blood donations, she died three weeks later.

See also Malcolm X


Brown, Jamie Foster, ed. Betty Shabazz: A Sisterfriends' Tribute in Words and Pictures. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998.

Rickford, Russell John. Betty Shabazz: A Remarkable Story of Survival and Faith Before and After Malcolm X. Naperville, Ill.: Sourcebooks, 2003.

greg robinson (2001)
Updated by publisher 2005