BY WALTER OPINDE
On 1st June, 1997, a young grandson of Malcolm X set a fire in Shabazz’s Yonkers apartment. Shabazz suffered burns over 80% of her body, and remained in intensive care for three weeks, at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx, New York. Shabazz underwent five skin-replacement operations as doctors struggled to replace damaged skin and save her life. Shabazz later succumbed to her injuries on 23rd June, 1997, dying at the age of 61 years. Malcolm Shabazz (the grandson who set her house aflame) was sentenced to 18 months in juvenile detention for manslaughter and arson.
More than 2,000 mourners attended a memorial service for Shabazz, at New York’s Riverside Church. Many prominent leaders were present, including Coretta Scott King and Myrlie Evers-Williams, poet Maya Angelou, actor-activists Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, New York Governor George Pataki, and four New York City mayors—Abraham Beame, Ed Koch, David Dinkins, and Rudy Giuliani. The U.S. Secretary of Labor, Alexis Herman, delivered a tribute from President Bill Clinton. In a statement released after Shabazz’s death, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson said, “She never stopped giving and she never became cynical. She leaves today the legacy of one who epitomized hope and healing.” Shabazz’s funeral service was held at the Islamic Cultural Center in New York City. Her public viewing was at the Unity Funeral Home in Harlem, the same place where Malcolm X’s viewing had taken place 32 years earlier. Shabazz was buried next to her husband, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X), at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.
Betty Shabazz, born Betty Dean Sanders and also known as Betty X, was an American educator and civil rights advocate. She was the wife of Malcolm X. she grew up in Detroit, Michigan, where her foster parents largely sheltered her from racism. Shabazz attended the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, where she had her first encounters with racism. Unhappy with the situation in Alabama, she moved to New York City, where she became a nurse. It was there that she met Malcolm X and, in 1956, joined the Nation of Islam. The couple married in 1958.
Along with her husband, Shabazz left the Nation of Islam in 1964 and witnessed the assassination of her husband the following year. Left with the responsibility of raising their six daughters as a single mother, Shabazz pursued a higher education and went to work at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York.
Read more of the story via:
Shabazz, Ilyasah (February 2, 2013). “How Betty Shabazz Persevered After Her Husband, Malcolm X, Was Killed”. The Daily Beast.