This Day In History: May 28th
Activist and wife of Malcolm X, Betty Shabazz, began her organizing efforts in her youth by working to boycott stores that would discriminate against African Americans. In addition to her involvement with activism, later in life Shabazz pursued a career as an associate professor and university administrator.
Betty Dean Sanders was born on May 28, 1934, to teenage parents. However, by the age of 11, she began living with businessman Lorenzo Malloy and his wife, Helen. Helen Malloy was also a member of the National Council of Negro Women and the NAACP which served as an early example community engagement.
After completing high school, she attended Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in Alabama. However, she relocated to New York City to study at Brooklyn State College School of Nursing in 1953 as an attempt to flee from the extreme racism she encountered in the Jim Crow South. During her second year, Shabazz was invited to a dinner party at the Nation of Islam temple in Harlem and there she met Malcolm.
Shabazz initially declined to join the organization but she began attending services led by Malcolm X and converted to Islam in 1956. She changed her surname to X which represented the loss of her African ancestry. The couple wed in January of 1958 and had a total of six daughters.
Six years later, they left the Nation of Islam, took on the name Shabazz and became Sunni Muslims. However, Shabazz was left to pick up the pieces of her family after her husband was assassinated on February 21, 1965. She was in the audience with her daughters when the incident occurred.
By the end of the 1960’s, Shabazz completed an undergraduate degree at Jersey City State College and she also pursued a doctoral degree in higher education administration at the University of Massachusetts. After completing her education, she began working as an associate professor of health sciences at Medgar Evers College.
Betty Shabazz died on June 23, 1997. Shabazz suffered severe burns and succumbed to her injuries following an apartment fire set by her grandson. She worked as a university administrator and fundraiser until the time of her death. Shabazz is buried beside her husband at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.