On This Day: Malcolm X shot dead

Chris Parsons

Malcolm X is regarded as one of the most influential figures in black American history (AP/PA)

February 21 1965: Controversial black leader Malcolm X, who once called for a 'blacks-only- U.S. state, was shot dead on this day 48 years ago.

The African American religious leader was assassinated by rival Black Muslims as he began a speech to 400 of his followers in Harlem, New York, in February 1965.

The 39-year-old was shot several times in an attack by two men at the Audubon Ballroom, and although he was rushed to hospital, was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.

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Two men thought to have carried out the assassination were cornered outside the venue and badly beaten, with police only able to rescue them after several minutes.

Black rights minister Malcolm X, who had dropped his 'slave' family name of Little while serving a jail term, was one of the most influential figures in African-American history.

He was a constant champion of black rights and often accused white America of crimes against black people. His detractors accused of racicm, and inciting black supremacy and violence.

It is thought the men who shot him were members of the rival black Muslim group, the Nation of Islam.

Malmcolm X had been tipped to take over as their leader, but broke away from the group in 1963 to set up his own organisation.

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He said the new group was for 'Negro intellectuals who favoured racial separation but could not accept the Muslim religion'.

In contrast to civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, a fierce public speaker, advocated self-defense and the liberation of black Americans 'by any means necessary'.

It is estimated that up to 30,000 mourners attended his funeral on February 27 in Harlem.

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