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Black Activists - Betty Shabazz

Updated on February 10, 2012

Betty Shabazz was born May 28, 1934 in Detroit, Michigan and died June 23, 1997 in The Bronx, New York. Betty Shabazz is best known as the wife of Black Nationalist leader Malcolm X. Betty Shabazz witnessed the murder of her husband who was gunned down as he spoke to a group of people. The assassination of her husband left Shabazz the single mother of six daughters; a huge undertaking. Shabazz was not sure how she would make it but she did with the help and support of those close to her and other civil right activists.

Educator

Betty Shabazz attended Tuskegee Institute to study early education and to become a teacher but things changed. Racism in south was difficult to deal with and Shabazz’s studies suffered. Shabazz changed her focus to nursing and graduated. After the death of her husband, Malcolm X, Betty returned to school and continued to study education. After getting an advanced degree in education administration from the Universityof Massachusetts Shabazzwent on to become a professor at MedgarEversCollege inBrooklyn,New York. Shabazz also became the director of the department of communications and public relations for the college. Shabazz would lecture about civil rights and racial tolerance.

Wife/Mother

Betty Shabazz was married to Black Nationalist leader Malcolm X. After her husband was assassinated Shabazz became a single mother of six daughters. Shabazz suffered from witnessing her husband death, she suffered from nightmares where she would relive his death. Shabazz would also worry about how she would support her family. The publication of The Autobiography of Malcolm X helped, because Shabazz split the royalties from the book with the author Alex Haley. After the book Roots was released Alex Haley signed of all his royalties from the autobiography over to Shabazz. Alex Haley was not the only person to help. Actor and activist Ruby Dee, and Sidney Poitier’s wife Juanita Poitier helped to raise funds to buy a house and pay expenses for the Shabazz family through the group that they established, the Committee of Concerned Mothers. The Committee raised almost $20,000 to help the Shabazz family.

Activist

As a child Betty Shabazz was shielded from racism by her foster parents. Shabazz did not witness racism until she went away to college. Betty once stated that, "Race relations were not discussed and it was hoped that by denying the existence of race problems, the problems would go away. Anyone who openly discussed race relations was quickly viewed as a ‘troublemaker.’” This ideology left Shabazz with a lot of emotions when she was confronted with racism. After the assassination of Malcolm X, Shabazz started to accept speaking engagements at colleges and universities speaking about civil rights, racial tolerance, the Black Nationalist philosophy of Malcolm X, and also about her role as a wife and mother. During this time Shabazz was close friends with Medger Evans wife Myrlie Evers-Williams and Martin Luther King, Jr’s wife Coretta Scott King. Shabazz, Evans and King had a common bond they all lost their activist husbands at a young age and were single mothers raising their children. The press came to refer to the three, who made numerous joint public appearances, as the "Movement widows". Shabazz was active in the NAACP, National Urban League and the National Council of Negro Women.

When one of Shabazz’s daughters was charged with trying to kill Louis Farrakhan in retaliation for her own father’s assassination Shabazz had to take in her young grandson, Malcolm. The young Malcolm started a fire in Shabazz’s apartment and Shabazz suffered burns over 80 percent of her body. Shabazz remained hospitalized for three weeks until her death. More than 2,000 mourners attended a memorial service for Shabazz. At the service Jesse Jackson stated about Shabazz, "She never stopped giving and she never became cynical. She leaves today the legacy of one who epitomized hope and healing."

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    • Triplet Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Triplet Mom 

      6 years ago from West Coast

      Thank you Krystal! This has been really fun to do and so interesting reading about the forgotten people.

      Truth - Thank you so much. It is such a jolt to read about the after effects that the widows and their children have to endure.

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 

      6 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      People often forget about the widows and children left behind after someone is assassinated and how they have to be strong and pick up the pieces to carry on he legacy. Betty Shabazz was a hero. Great article.

    • KrystalD profile image

      Krystal 

      6 years ago from Los Angeles

      I have been following this entire series and I have to say, I LOVE it! Bettt Shabazz was a dynamic Black woman and I am alway happy to see her achievements and just plain courage honored. Thank you! You have a new fan :)

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