Did Louis Farrakhan Kill Malcolm X?

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(ThyBlackMan.com) Malcolm X’s assassination on February 21, 1965, is one of the most debated and controversial events in the history of the American civil rights movement. It stands out as a turning point in African-American history and remains a subject of intense speculation and conspiracy theories. This essay examines the relationship between Malcolm X and Louis Farrakhan, scrutinizing the events leading up to the assassination and whether Farrakhan had any involvement.

Did Louis Farrakhan Kill Malcolm X?

Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam

Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little in 1925, was drawn into criminal activity as a young man before being sentenced to prison for burglary. During his incarceration, he became influenced by the teachings of Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam (NOI). After converting to Islam and adopting the name Malcolm X, he became a prominent spokesperson for the NOI, advocating for Black empowerment, self-reliance, and the separation of Black and White societies.

Malcolm X’s magnetic personality and forceful oratory attracted thousands of new members to the NOI, significantly increasing its influence and visibility. His fiery rhetoric, which often advocated for self-defense and Black separatism, made him a polarizing figure in America but also earned him immense respect among many African Americans.

The Rift and Departure

Tensions between Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad began to surface in the early 1960s. Malcolm X became increasingly disillusioned with Muhammad, particularly after learning of the latter’s alleged infidelities. In addition, Malcolm X’s pilgrimage to Mecca in 1964 profoundly impacted his worldview. There, he experienced the unity and diversity of Muslims of all races, leading him to embrace a more inclusive interpretation of Islam that diverged significantly from the NOI’s separatist teachings.

These ideological shifts and revelations led Malcolm X to resign from the NOI in March 1964 and establish his own organizations, the Muslim Mosque, Inc., and the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU). His departure caused significant tensions with the NOI, which saw his exit as a betrayal.

The Role of Louis Farrakhan

Louis Farrakhan, known at the time as Louis X, was a devout follower of Elijah Muhammad and a vocal critic of Malcolm X after his departure from the NOI. Farrakhan was among the more militant members of the NOI and deeply loyal to Muhammad’s leadership. He viewed Malcolm X’s departure as treacherous, and his rhetoric towards Malcolm X became increasingly vitriolic. In a speech to NOI members, Farrakhan denounced Malcolm X as a traitor, insinuating that his death would be justified. In an article published in “Muhammad Speaks,” the NOI’s official newspaper, Farrakhan labeled Malcolm X as “worthy of death,” further inflaming the animosity against him within the NOI.

The Assassination of Malcolm X

On February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was preparing to address a crowd at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem when he was fatally shot. As he began his speech, a disturbance erupted in the audience, creating chaos. Amid the confusion, gunmen rushed toward the stage and opened fire, hitting Malcolm X multiple times.

Three men with alleged ties to the NOI—Talmadge Hayer (Thomas Hagan), Norman 3X Butler, and Thomas 15X Johnson—were arrested and later convicted of the assassination. Hayer confessed to his involvement but insisted that Butler and Johnson were not part of the assassination plot. Despite his testimony, Butler and Johnson were imprisoned for several decades before being exonerated in 2021.

Allegations Against Louis Farrakhan

Following Malcolm X’s assassination, speculation swirled regarding Louis Farrakhan’s potential involvement. Farrakhan’s harsh criticism and incitement against Malcolm X are believed to have contributed to the hostile climate that surrounded Malcolm X leading up to his assassination. In a 1993 interview with PBS, Farrakhan admitted that his rhetoric might have contributed to the atmosphere that led to Malcolm X’s assassination but denied any direct involvement in the crime.

Potential Motives for Farrakhan’s Involvement

Understanding why some speculate about Louis Farrakhan’s involvement in Malcolm X’s assassination requires examining several key motives:

  1. Loyalty to Elijah Muhammad: Farrakhan was deeply loyal to Elijah Muhammad and considered Malcolm X’s departure a betrayal of Muhammad’s leadership. His strong allegiance to the NOI and Muhammad could have influenced him to take extreme actions against those deemed enemies of the movement.
  2. Ideological Differences: Malcolm X’s evolving ideology after his pilgrimage to Mecca clashed with the NOI’s teachings. He began advocating for more inclusivity and was willing to work with other civil rights leaders from different religious and ideological backgrounds. Farrakhan, known for his strict adherence to the NOI’s doctrines, may have viewed Malcolm X’s changing views as a threat to the NOI.
  3. Power Dynamics: Malcolm X was a highly influential figure whose leadership within the NOI rivaled that of Elijah Muhammad himself. His departure created a power vacuum, and Farrakhan, as an ambitious and rising member of the NOI, might have seen the opportunity to consolidate his influence by discrediting Malcolm X.
  4. Rhetorical Influence: Farrakhan’s inflammatory speeches and writings created a culture of hostility towards Malcolm X. While not directly implicated in the assassination, Farrakhan’s rhetoric may have encouraged radical elements within the NOI to believe that violence against Malcolm X was justified.

Investigations and Recent Developments

The investigation into Malcolm X’s assassination has undergone several reviews, uncovering new evidence that has raised questions about the original investigation and trial. The FBI and NYPD have been implicated in potential cover-ups and mishandling of evidence. A 2020 Netflix documentary, “Who Killed Malcolm X?” brought renewed attention to the case, presenting fresh evidence and theories. In 2021, Butler and Johnson were formally exonerated after a reinvestigation found inconsistencies in the original case.


While Louis Farrakhan’s incendiary language and harsh criticism likely contributed to a climate of hostility that led to Malcolm X’s assassination, there is no definitive evidence directly linking him to the murder. The complexities surrounding the case reflect deep-seated tensions within the civil rights movement and the broader political landscape of the 1960s, leaving many questions unanswered regarding Malcolm X’s death.


  1. Manning Marable, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention. Viking, 2011.
  2. Bruce Perry, Malcolm: The Life of a Man Who Changed Black America. Station Hill Press, 1991.
  3. “Louis Farrakhan on Malcolm X” (1993 interview with PBS).
  4. Les Payne and Tamara Payne, The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X. Liveright, 2020.
  5. Henry Hampton, Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965. Penguin Books, 1987.
  6. Ronald Kessler, The FBI. Pocket Books, 1993.

Staff Writer; Jamar Jackson

This brother has a passion for poetry and music. One may contact him at; JJackson@ThyBlackMan.com.