black women

How she met Malcolm: 10 Things You may not know about Betty Shabazz

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April Taylor

Betty Shabazz is best known for being the wife of Malcolm X. However, she was a leader in her own right and overcame many challenges both before and after her life with Malcolm. Here are 10 things you may not have known about her:

  1. Shabazz was born Betty Dean Sanders to a single teenage mother. Her mother reportedly abused her.
  2. At age 11, she was removed from her mother’s care and placed in the home of Lorenzo and Helen Malloy, a middle class black couple.
  3. Her foster parents largely sheltered her from racism and refused to discuss it. Her first personal encounters with racism came when she attended the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Prejudice and racism in the South proved to be more than she wanted to deal with, so Shabazz left Alabama to go to nursing school at Brooklyn State College School of Nursing in New York City.
  4. Shabazz met Malcolm in 1956 after attending Nation of Islam events. The two married in 1958. They had six daughters, including twins that were born after Malcolm’s assassination.
  5. Shabazz took her own pilgrimage to Mecca after Malcolm’s assassination, and she credits that experience with getting her back on track and helping her focus on the people who loved her and were there for instead of the people who were trying to tear her and her family apart.
  6. After her husband’s assassination, Shabazz earned a bachelor’s from Jersey City State College and a doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts.
  7. She taught at Medgar Evers College and later became an administrator at the school.
  8. Shabazz served on President Ford’s American Revolution Bicentennial Council and also served on an advisory committee on family planning for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  9. Shabazz’s daughter Qubilah Shabazz, was charged with trying to hire an assassin to kill Louis Farrakhan who Shabazz felt was responsible for Malcolm’s assassination.
  10. A memorial was set up in the Audobon Ballroom where Malcolm was assassinated. The name of the memorial is the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center. The portion of Broadway that sits at the corner of West 165th Street where the Audubon Ballroom is located was co-named Betty Shabazz Way in March 2012.