Malcolm X’s Wife Betty Shabazz Now: Where Is She Today?

malcolm x wife betty shabazz

Getty Malcolm X's wife Betty Shabazz and Malcolm X.

Malcolm X was married to wife Betty and together they had six children, all daughters. However, her life ended as tragically as his did, although in a completely different way. Betty is featured in the new Netflix documentary, “Who Killed Malcolm X?”

What happened to Malcolm X’s wife Betty after his assassination? Where is Betty Shabazz now? Sadly, Betty Shabazz died relatively young in 1997. According to her obituary on CNN, Malcolm’s wife died after suffering severe burns at the age of 61. Even worse, it was suspected that her 12 year old grandson started that fire, CNN reported. (You can read about the lives of Betty’s and Malcolm’s six daughters today here.)

Malcolm X, age 39, was assassinated inside the Audubon Ballroom in New York City, on February 21, 1965. Three men, Talmadge Hayer, Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson were all convicted of murder in the case, but only Hayer admitted involvement and said the other two men were innocent. The documentary raises serious questions about the investigation and murder. Malcolm’s death was only the beginning of the tragedies to hit his wife and family.

Here’s what you need to know about Malcolm’s wife Betty:

Malcolm X’s Wife Betty Suffered Burns Over 80 Percent of Her Body

betty shabazz

This file photo taken 06 May 1995 shows the widow of Malcolm X, Betty Shabazz, speaking at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York, at a Nation of Islam meeting.

Betty Shabazz struggled to live for some time after the blaze. According to CNN, she was in extremely critical condition after suffering third-degree burns over 80 percent of her body in the fire at her home in Yonkers, New York.

She eventually succumbed to her injuries. CNN reported that her grandson was arrested on suspicions he set the blaze because he was unhappy he had been sent to live with his grandmother. She lived for less than a month.

malcolm shabazz

Malcolm Shabazz (C) is led out of family court 03 June in Yonkers, New York, by juvenile correctional officers after a court appearance in connection with the burning of his grandmother Betty Shabazz.

That grandson also died tragically. Then 28 year old, Betty’s grandson Malcolm Shabazz was killed in a bar fight in Mexico City in 2013, according to Guardian.

The Guardian reported that Malcolm was the son of Qubilah Shabazz, one of six daughters that Malcolm X had with Betty. Qubilah had witnessed her dad’s assassination in 1965 when she was just 4 years old.

He served four years in juvenile detention for the fire, Guardian reported. He later told The New York Times that he wished for a sign of forgiveness from his dead grandmother: “I just wanted her to know I was sorry and I wanted to know she accepted my apology, that I didn’t mean it. But I would get no response, and I really wanted that response.” However, he had other brushes with the law.

The facade of the “Palace Bar” in Mexico City is seen on May 10, 2013, where Malcolm Shabazz of the US, grandson of assassinated African-American leader Malcolm X, died May 9, 2013 of blunt-force trauma injuries reportedly sustained in fight at the bar in circumstances still unclear, Mexican authorities said.

According to the Baltimore Sun, Percy Sutton, Malcolm’s lawyer, told the court of Qubilah: “This woman was present at the slaughter. This mother never regained a sense of what it is to be in this society. She became a nomad and this was another tragedy.” The lawyer said that Malcolm Shabazz, the grandson, would repeatedly tell him, “I loved Mama Betty, and Mama Betty loved me.”

Betty Worked in University Administration After Her Husband’s Death

malcolm x

Portrait of human rights activist Malcolm X reading stories about himself in a pile of newspapers, circa 1963.

Betty Shabazz married Malcolm X, then the spokesman for the Nation of Islam, in 1958, seven years before he was assassinated. She later became an activist and had “a career in university administration,” reported.

Shabazz was born Betty Dean Sanders on May 28, 1934. She grew up in Detroit and was deeply affected by the racism of Jim Crow laws, according to Eventually, she made her way to New York City to the Brooklyn State College School of Nursing. She met Malcolm through a friend, and they married, having six daughters together.

From left: Illya, Attallal and Gamilah, three of the daughters of Betty Shabazz enter the Islamic Cultural Center in New York for private funeral service 27 June 1997.

Betty Shabazz was in the audience when Malcolm was shot and killed. According to, she never remarried and she lived in part on the royalty checks from her husband’s autobiography. She eventually received a doctoral degree in higher education and became an associate professor of health sciences at New York’s Medgar Evers College.

Today, she is buried beside her husband in New York.

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