The Assassinations of

Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.

by Roland Sheppard

Martin Luther King and Malcolm X

Photo: Marion S. Trikosko/Agence France-Press/Getty Images      

Martin Luther King and Malcolm X in 1964

It’s impossible for a chicken to produce a duck egg ... The system of this country cannot produce freedom for an Afro-American. It is impossible for this system, this economic system, this political system, this social system, this system period. It is impossible for it, as it now stands, to produce freedom right now for the Black man in this country – it is impossible. And if ever a chicken did produce a duck egg, I’m certain you would say it was certainly a revolutionary chicken. – Malcolm X, Harlem ‘Hate Gang’ Scare Militant Labor Forum, May 29, 1964

I first started to write about Malcolm X’s assassination, after I watched the 1992 CBS documentrary, The Real Malcolm X, An Intimate Portrait of the man, narrated by Dan Rather. I then saw that Spike Lee’s documentary movie, Malcolm X, had left out the most of the events in the last year of Malcolm’s life, starting with March 12, 1964 Press Statement by Malcolm X. When Denzel Washington, acting as Malcolm X, is shown addressing this press conference, right after Malcolm’s statement: “There can be no black-white unity until there is first some black unity”, Denzel Washington did not state what Malcolm X said next, which was “There can be no workers solidarity until there is first some racial solidarity,” The statement about ‘workers solidarity’ showed some of Malcolm’s thinking and outlook at that time – he was becoming anti-capitalist in his political thinking.

I felt compelled to write this essay to show why this government, “the assassination leader of the world “ assassinated Malcolm X. But when I began to read more of what King had stood for at the end of his life, that he also was becoming anti-capitalist in his political thinking, before his life was ended, I realized the United States Government had the same motive to kill both Malcolm X Martin Luther King. When I discovered and realized the complicity, of the government, in both assassinations, I then felt compelled to write this essay, based upon what I learned and my own personal experience.

Malcolm X speaking at the New York

Militant Labor Forum, 1964

Photo by Eli (Lucky) Finer

I regularly attended Malcolm X’s meetings in Harlem and was present at the meeting when Malcolm X was assassinated. I was in charge of defense when Malcolm X spoke at the Militant Labor Forum in New York City from 1964 to 1965. I have written several articles, spoken to various groups, and been interviewed about Malcolm X. This essay is an update of a paper that was accepted by City College of New York’s (CCNY) Black Studies Program for The Third Symposium of Institution Building in Harlem: The Malcolm X Legacy: A Global Perspective, held on Friday, May 20, 2005 at CCNY. It was first written as the February 2001 Monthly Feature for the Holt Labor Library website.

This essay is based on my presentation at a forum in Boston in 2000, on the same subject. The other speaker at the forum was Minister Don Muhammad of the Boston Nation of Islam.( I have updated this essay as more data becomes available in the internet.)

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”

Martin Luther King, Jr. The Assassinations of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.

Pepper went a step beyond saying government agencies were responsible for the assassination. To whom in turn were those murderous agencies responsible? Not so much to government officials per se, Pepper asserted, as to the economic powerholders they represented who stood in the even deeper shadows behind the FBI, Army Intelligence, and their affiliates in covert action. By 1968, Pepper told the jury, ’And today it is much worse in my view’ – ’the decision-making processes in the United States were the representatives, the footsoldiers of the very economic interests that were going to suffer as a result of these times of changes [being actived by King].’

To say that U.S. government agencies killed Martin Luther King on the verge of the Poor People’s Campaign is a way into the deeper truth that the economic powers that be (which dictate the policies of those agencies) killed him. In the Memphis prelude to the Washington campaign, King posed a threat to those powers of a non-violent revolutionary force. Just how determined they were to stop him before he reached Washington was revealed in the trial by the size and complexity of the plot to kill him. – Jim Douglass, The Martin Luther King Conspiracy Exposed in Memphis

Over forty years ago, Malcolm X (1965) and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1968) were assassinated. In the case of Malcolm X, several members of the Nation of Islam (NOI) were convicted of the assassination. In the case of Martin Luther King, one assassin, James Earl Ray, was convicted of the assassination and sentenced to life in prison. However, there have always been many unanswered questions about both of these murders. Despite the convictions, and the ongoing campaign by the government, police agencies, and various authors and pundits to put the assassinations to rest, there have always been many unanswered questions.

Almost 32 years after King’s murder at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis on April 4, l968, a Memphis court extended the circle of responsibility for the assassination beyond the late scapegoat James Earl Ray to the United States government. According to the Memphis jury’s verdict on December 8,1999, a jury of twelve citizens of Memphis, Shelby County, TN, concluded in Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King, III, Bernice King, Dexter Scott King and Yolanda King Vs. Loyd Jowers and Other Unknown Conspirators that Loyd Jowers and governmental agencies including the City of Memphis, the State of Tennessee, and the federal government were party to the conspiracy to assassinate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As Coretta Scott King stated:

“There is abundant evidence of a major high level conspiracy in the assassination of my husband, Martin Luther King, Jr. And the civil court’s unanimous verdict has validated our belief. I wholeheartedly applaud the verdict of the jury and I feel that justice has been well served in their deliberations.

“This verdict is not only a great victory for my family, but also a great victory for America. It is a great victory for truth itself.

“It is important to know that this was a SWIFT verdict, delivered after about an hour of jury deliberation. The jury was clearly convinced by the extensive evidence that was presented during the trial that, in addition to Mr. Jowers, the conspiracy of the Mafia, local, state and federal government agencies, were deeply involved in the assassination of my husband.

“The jury also affirmed overwhelming evidence that identified someone else, not James Earl Ray, as the shooter, and that Mr. Ray was set up to take the blame.” ...

In the 1970’s, the public became aware of the COINTELPRO disruption operations of the government against the Civil Rights movement, the anti-war movement, radicals and socialists. Under COINTELPRO the different United States spy agencies used informers, agents, and agents provocateurs to disrupt these organizations. One of the stated purposes of this program was to neutralize Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Elijah Muhammad in order to prevent the emergence – to use the government’s term – of a Black Messiah who would have the potential of uniting and leading a mass organization of Black Americans in their struggle for freedom and economic equality.

(This policy was still being continued in 1978 and probably still going on.

A second assassination of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. has been the attempt to distort what they really stood for in their last years of life. This is a process that Lenin described in the opening to his book The State and Revolution:

“... what in the course of history, has happened repeatedly to the theories of revolutionary thinkers and leaders of oppressed classes fighting for emancipation. During the lifetime of great revolutionaries, the oppressing classes constantly hounded them, received their theories with the most savage malice, the most furious hatred and the most unscrupulous campaigns of lies and slander. After their death, attempts are made to convert them into harmless icons, to canonize them, so to say, and to hallow their names to a certain extent for the consolation of the oppressed classes and with the object of duping the latter, while at the same time robbing the revolutionary theory of its substance, blunting its revolutionary edge and vulgarizing it.”

As one who was politically active at that time, I believe that it is important to tell the truth about Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X in order to help keep their ideas alive and prevent them from being reduced to harmless icons.

The Assassination of Malcolm X

I witnessed Malcolm X’s assassination at the Audubon Ballroom, on February 21, 1965. I am writing with the benefit of first hand knowledge of what took place that day, what Malcolm X stood for at the time of his death, and the hope for the future that inspired all who heard or knew the man.

I remember the mass media, reflecting their class hatred of Malcolm X, gloating and cheering his assassination. I remember the response to his death by the tens of thousands in Harlem, who for several days went to view his casket. I remember the Malcolm X Eulogy by Ossie Davis that silenced the hyenas of the press when he said “Consigning these mortal remains to earth, the common mother of all, secure in the knowledge that what we place in the ground is no more now a man - but a seed - which, after the winter of our discontent, will come forth again to meet us. And we will know him then for what he was and is - a Prince - our own black shining Prince! - who didn’t hesitate to die, because he loved us so.” In spite of all of the attacks by the mass media, Malcolm X has grown more and more popular as a martyred leader of his people and an uncompromising advocate of human rights and freedom.

In 1991, at the time Spike Lee’s documentary movie on Malcolm X was due to be released, several books were written that attempted to camouflage Malcolm’s political evolution during his last year. Two such books were Malcolm: The Life of a Man Who Changed Black America, by Bruce Perry and Malcolm X: The Assassination, by Michael Friedly. In my opinion, these books are a second assassination of Malcolm X.

Both books were written in order to reaffirm the government’s position to put sole blame on the Nation of Islam (NOI) for the assassination. Both deny the evolution of his thinking, reflecting his revolutionary development in the last year of his life, and discounted any possibility of government complicity or motive in the assassination. Both were also polemics against two excellent books written by George Breitman: The Last Year of Malcolm X: The Evolution of a Revolutionary and The Assassination of Malcolm X.

Breitman wrote The Last Year of Malcolm X to cover the period of Malcolm’s life that is absent from the autobiography co-authored with Alex Haley. He also hoped to clear up any misconceptions that Haley, who disagreed with Malcolm’s ideas as they were developing, had put into the epilogue of the autobiography. Breitman’s book was based on Malcolm’s speeches and statements during his last year and his collaboration with the Socialist Workers Party. If one reads Malcolm X’s speeches, one will clearly understand that Breitman’s book is a very accurate statement of Malcolm X’s political development and evolution.

Unfortunately, Spike Lee’s documentary movie, Malcolm X, also downplayed Malcolm’s thinking and accomplishments during his last year and omitted this sentence from Malcolm’s first press conference after the split from the Nation of Islam: “There can be no workers solidarity until there is first some racial solidarity” 1 is a clear expression of his thinking, at that time in history.

This allows those who oppose what Malcolm had become in his last year to maintain that he had not become a threat to the capitalist establishment. This has been consciously done to make it appear that the NOI alone had a motive to kill Malcolm X and to exonerate the role of the government in the assassination.

The Government’s Motive To Neutralize Malcolm X

In his last year, Malcolm X came to the conclusion that it was impossible for African Americans to be integrated into this system because racism was profitable and an integral part of capitalism. His words on the world-wide oppression of non-whites by white Europeans were very similar to what Karl Marx wrote about how the original capitalist fortunes were obtained. In Capital, Volume One, Part VIII, Chapter 31, Genesis of the Industrial Capitalist, Marx wrote:

“...The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement, and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black-skins, signalized the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production... If money... comes into the world with a congenital blood-stain on one cheek, capital comes dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt.

Malcolm X was the first mass leader in the United States to oppose the war in Vietnam and to identify the oppression of African Americans in this country with the struggles of the oppressed throughout the world. In all probability, Malcolm X would have spoken at the first mass demonstration against the Vietnam War in 1965. His powerful oratory alone, as well as his standing among inner-city Blacks, would have given the Vietnam Antiwar Movement a far different character and the history of that period in the United States and the world would have been greatly changed.

I had the opportunity to hear Malcolm X speak at meetings in Harlem at the Audubon Ballroom and elsewhere. His power as an orator was his ability to make complex ideas simple and clear. He was not a demagogue. His speeches were always an appeal to reason.

One example of the power of his oratory was when he spoke at an organizing rally for Hospital Workers Local 1199 in New York City 1962. The following is a famous quote from that speech:

“The hospital strikers have demonstrated that you don’t get a job done unless you show the Man you’re not afraid to go to jail. If you’re not willing to pay that price, then you don’t deserve the rewards or benefits that go along with it.”

Malcolm X at 1199 Rally

He gave the best speech at the rally, and when he finished speaking, all of the workers – Black, white, and Puerto Rican – cheered wildly. The response was the same whether he spoke in Harlem or in a debate at Oxford University in England.

One can hear the response that Malcolm got by watching the video of MALCOLM X’s OXFORD UNION DEBATE (December 3, 1964), when he ended his speech quoting Shakespeare:

“I read once, passingly, about a man named Shakespeare. I only read about him passingly, but I remember one thing he wrote that kind of moved me. He put it in the mouth of Hamlet, I think, it was, who said, ‘To be or not to be.’ He was in doubt about something. Whether it was nobler in the mind of man to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, moderation, or to take up arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them. And I go for that. If you take up arms, you’ll end it, but if you sit around and wait for the one who’s in power to make up his mind that he should end it, you’ll be waiting a long time. And in my opinion, the young generation of whites, blacks, browns, whatever else there is, you’re living at a time of extremism, a time of revolution, a time when there’s got to be a change. People in power have misused it and now there has to be a change and a better world has to be built and the only way it’s going to be built is with extreme methods. And I, for one, will join in with anyone, I don’t care what color you are, as long as you want to change this miserable condition that exists on this earth. Thank you.”

Addressing students at the LSE

Malcolm X addressing students at
the London School of Economics, 1965

Malcolm X viewed the struggle of African Americans as an economic and social struggle for human rights and not limited to just a struggle for civil fights. He identified with the Colonial Revolution at that time in Africa and throughout the world, including the struggle of the Vietnamese people and the Cuban revolution; in direct opposition to the policies of the United States government both then and now. He had met with Che Guevara and the Cuban delegation to the United Nations in December 1964 and a firm bond was established between them. Contrary to Friedly and Perry’s assertions, Malcolm had become a very real threat to the very foundations of capitalism in the United States, The truth is that the United States government had a very good motive for the assassination.

Prior to his assassination Malcolm X told Clifton DeBerry, the presidential candidate of the Socialist Workers Party in 1964, and myself that he hoped to live long enough to build a viable organization based on his current ideas – so that he would be more dangerous to the system dead than alive. Unfortunately, he did not have time to build the new organization that he had envisioned

In his book, The Assassination of Malcolm X, George Breitman points out that the first accounts of the assassination, in the New York City newspapers, reported that two people were caught by the crowd and saved by the police. But later, the press and the police reported that only one person, Talmadge Hayer, who was shot in the leg, had been caught by the crowd. Since he had been shot, the police took him to the hospital that was across the street. No explanation has ever been given for the change in the story.

New York Herald Tribune

New York Herald Tribune

On the Smoking Gun website,, a 1965 police affidavit, by an eyewitness, is shown that confirms that two people had been caught by the crowd.

In a news video, made right after the assassination, Cointelpro Documentary, Part 2 of 6 (actual audio recording of Malcolm X assassination), the New York Police Department’s, Chef Inspector Taylor, confirmed that two suspects of the assassinations were caught. At the 5:20 point, of the video, he states: “We have two suspects in custody now.”

Two Police Reports

The ‘Second Man’ Confirmed by Two Eyewitness Accounts

The question remains to this day: What happened to the second man? Why wasn’t he brought to trial? The first police report stated that five men were involved in the assassination; yet only three were accused and convicted at the trial. Both Perry and Friedly allege that the newspapers made a journalistic mistake. However, Breitman puts forward the probability that the second man was an undercover agent who was quietly released. (From The Assassination of Malcolm X (third edition) by George Breitman, Herman Porter, and Baxter Smith (Pathfinder Press, 1991)

There is no doubt that the police had plainclothes officials in the audience. As an eyewitness to the assassination, I was questioned at the Harlem police headquarters. I recognized a man there - obviously a cop, with free run of the office – whom I had seen standing, in the first row at the Audubon Ballroom, with other men, before the start of the meeting, where Hayer said his accomplices were sitting. He was fairly tall and wore a long powder blue wool trench coat and a fez hat. Perry’s book basically supports the official police version of the assassination. It ignores strong evidence that it would have been virtually impossible for only three people to have carried out the assassination.

Perry also ignores Hayer’s affidavit that the two other people convicted with him, Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson – who were both members of the NOI – were not even present at the meeting when Malcolm was killed. (When I was called before the Grand Jury on the assassination of Malcolm X, James Shabazz, Malcolm’s primary assistant, also told me that that Butler and Johnson were well known and confirmed that they were not at the meeting nor would they have been allowed to enter the meeting.)

Friedly’s book is a more sophisticated cover up. The book puts the blame solely on the NOI while, at the same time, criticizing the police investigation. It is based on Hayer’s confessions at the trial and at a later parole hearing. Friedly’s and Hayer’s version is that five members of the NOI carried out the assassination, three people doing the shooting up front and two people creating a diversion prior to the shooting, setting off a smoke bomb in the back of the room.

Hayer’s version of the logistics corresponds with my own impressions at the scene. Contrary to Friedly’s contention, however, the confession by Hayer only reinforces the probable existence of a second man caught by the crowd. Hayer explains that at the time that he was shot and caught by the crowd he could see one of his accomplices running ahead of him. I was told by Malcolm’s guards when I got outside the Audubon Ballroom, that two people were caught by the crowd at the same time and that one was taken to the hospital by the police and the other taken into police custody. Hayer was taken to the hospital and then booked. It is likely that the second man caught was the one running ahead of Hayer and was quite possibly an agent.

There is one glaring error in Hayer’s statement. He stated that the five assassins cased one of Malcolm’s meetings at the Audubon Ballroom in the winter of 1964-65 and concluded that they would have a good chance to escape. This is far from probable. There were normally 30 to 50 cops, in their blue uniforms, both inside and outside the building stationed at all the exits. Escape would not have been easy.

However, at the meeting when Malcolm was assassinated, the police were nowhere to be found, even though they knew that an assassination attempt was imminent. In order to plan Malcolm X’s death, the conspirators would have needed to know and be confident that the cops were not going to be there on that day. Perry and Friedly assert that the police agreed to Malcolm’s request not to have police protection. However, when the police first spoke of their agreement, Malcolm’s wife, Betty Shabazz, stated that it was a lie that Malcolm had made the request.

Both Perry and Friedly discount any possible disruption operations by the FBI, the New York City police, or the CIA.When Clarence Jones, Martin Luther King’s lawyer, was interviewed by Dan Rather on the 1992 documentary, when questioned about the assassination of Malcolm X, he stated:

“... Knowing what I now know of the various agencies of the US government investigative agencies of the US government with respect to Martin King, for example, and knowing what they did to political parties, like the Black Panther Parties, I have no doubt that the assassination of Malcolm X was calculated, planned by agencies at the highest level of this government. I don’t have any question, I don’t have any doubt in my mind that is what happened ...”

“The Judas Factor”

In dramatic contrast to Perry’s and Friedly’s conclusions about Malcolm X’s assassination, is a book by Washington Post staff writer Karl Evanzz titled, The Judas Factor (Thunder’s Mouth Press, New York, 1992. 389 pp., $22.95).

In this book, Evanzz documents how the intelligence community, the CIA, the FBI, and the New York Police Bureau of Special Services (BOSSI) using agents provocateurs and infiltrators; set the stage for the assassination of Malcolm X. It outlines the motives for their actions. Evanzz spent 15 years researching over 300,000 pages of declassified FBI and CIA documents. From Page 214 of The Judas Factor:

(A few days after Malcolm X’s press conference announcing his split from the NOI) “William C. Sullivan (FBI) contacted the directors of BOSSI and asked them to recruit several African Americans to infiltrate Malcolm X’s new organization. Among the directors at the time were two men who later would play key roles in the scandal that led to Richard Nixon’s resignation: Anthony Ulasewicz, the infamous bagman of Watergate, and Nixon advisor John J. Caulfield.

“Ulasewicz was all too happy to comply with Sullivan’s request. Malcolm X had been a thorn in the New York Police Department’s side for more than a decade. He told Sullivan that he would have officers ready to infiltrate Malcolm X’s new organizations within thirty days.

“While Sullivan was coordinating the domestic counterintelligence program against Malcolm X with BOSSI, the CIA initiated a similar program to determine the extent of Malcolm X’s influence with Third World leaders. ‘What do we have on Malcolm X?’ a CIA official wrote in an inter-office memo dated March 10. The request for information had come from the U.S. State Department. The official ordered a clerk to run a thorough check in the CIA’s database to determine which Third World countries seemed receptive to Malcolm X ...”

In the introduction to the book, Evanzz writes: “After analyzing these resources, I am convinced that Louis E. Lomax, an industrious African-American journalist who befriended Malcolm X in the late 1950’s, had practically solved the riddle of his assassination. Lomax, who died in a mysterious automobile accident while shooting a film in Los Angeles about the assassination, believed that Malcolm X was betrayed by a former friend who reportedly had ties to the intelligence community. In 1968, Lomax called the suspect ’Judas’. This, then, is the story of The Judas Factor.” There are two major themes in the book: One is the “Judas Factor” and the other is the concern of the FBI and the CIA over Malcolm X’s success in linking the struggle of African Americans with the national liberation struggles in Africa and throughout the Third World.

Evanzz documents that Ahmed Ben Bella, the leader of the Algerian Revolution, had invited Malcolm X – along with Che Guevara and other leaders of independence movements – to a special conference in Bandung scheduled to begin on March 3, 1965. Malcolm X had also been able to get Ethiopia and Liberia to include human rights violations against African Americans with their petition on South African human rights violations before the International Court of Justice at The Hague. The petition was scheduled to be heard on March 12, 1965.

Part of the Judas Factor was the FBI’s attempts to neutralize Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Elijah Muhammad. Evanzz provides concrete evidence that Martin Luther King was going to support Malcolm X in his project to bring the struggle of human rights before the United Nations and had begun to also identify with the struggles for human rights in Africa.

In light of the CIA’s policies to neutralize opponents of the U.S. government’s political and covert activities in Africa, Evanzz explains that it was necessary to neutralize Malcolm X prior to the Bandung conference. Malcolm X was assassinated on February, 21, 1965, a week and a half before the conference was to take place. Soon after the assassination, several African government officials who had been working with Malcolm X were also assassinated and the Ben Bella government in Algeria was overthrown in June 1965.

From his research into FBI files, Evanzz was able to prove that the FBI had a high-level informant in the NOI. Thus, the FBI was clearly in a position to carry out a campaign to fan the flames of discontent among rising leaders of the Nation and to disrupt the organization’s activities. FBI memos indicate that they maneuvered within the NOI to keep their informant in the best possible leadership position to carry out their covert activities. From the very day that Malcolm X split from the NOI, the FBI worked on a day-to-day basis with BOSSI and the CIA to infiltrate and disrupt his activities. William Sullivan (subsequently of Watergate fame) was the FBI agent in overall charge of both the infiltration of the NOI and Malcolm’s organization, the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU).

It is clear from the book that a coordinated effort was carried out between all government spy agencies to widen the split between Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad, to increase tensions between their organizations, and to undermine their support among African Americans. It is also safe to assume that agents, informants, and provocateurs from these different agencies were sent into the NOI and Malcolm X’s organizations and that these agents were also present at the Audubon Ballroom when Malcolm X was assassinated. One of police informants, who later informed on the Black Panthers, told me as I was going to take my normal front row seat that “you are not going to sit there today,” and he had me sit in the front row on the left side of the Ballroom. (The assassins sat in the area where I normally sat to hear Malcolm X speak.) When I look over in that direction to see who was sitting in my usual seating area, that was when I saw the same man that I later saw at the Harlem police station, when I was questioned by the police.

Some of Evanzz’s research was based on books about the NOI by Louis Lomax. Evanzz found in the FBI files a script for a movie on the assassination of Malcolm X, which Lomax was working on at the time of his death. (He died in a car accident caused by brake failure.) Evanzz provides circumstantial evidence that John Ali, a former friend of Malcolm X who became a national secretary of the NOI, was more than likely an FBI agent/informer and hence the Judas Factor. In fact, Evanzz provides quotes from Malcolm X to Lomax indicating that Malcolm X blamed John Ali for his expulsion from the Nation.

On pages 327–329 of the book, Conspiracy: Unravelling the assassination of Malcolm X (Nubia Press, 1992, Washington) Baba Zak Kondo documents that John Ali was most likely an FBI agent.

On page 328 Kondo wrote:

“As previously noted, Malcolm, who had a clear understanding of the internal workings of the NOI leadership, stated in early June 1964, that Ali was running the NOI to steal as much money as he could from its treasury. This could well explain why Ali was considered an informant. Most FBI informants were/are motivated by money, a point not lost on Frank Donner:

“Victims, with good reason, typically charge that inform and defectors are motivated primarily by greed. The bureau knows and invariably weaves financial considerations into its snitch jacket scripts. (Age of Surveillance, p. 193).

“There is a tendency for researchers and historians to minimize the role and duties of the informant. This is a grave mistake. The Bureau informant frequently played the role of special agent during the 60s and 70s. Former FBI executive William Sullivan, a man in a position to know, clarified this point in the Bureau: “Sometimes an informant can become an agent provocateur who ends up participating in and perhaps instigating and even leading the activity he was being paid to report on (p. 129).”

In the Dan Rather CBS documentrary, The Real Malcolm X, An Intimate Portrait of the man, Dan Rather stated that:

“We have now looked over 50,000 Freedom of Information Act files from the FBI and the CIA ...

“... they do show, prior to MalcolmX’s death, that the CIA and the State Department were actively monitoring his travels abroad and telling foreign leaders to be wary of him. At the same time, the FBI agents were trying to quote ‘cause disruption and deepen the dispute between Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad’. By among other things forging Malcolm’s signature and and sending inflammatory letters to Elijah Muhammad and his followers. There are at least 45,000 more pages ... that have never been reveled.”

Therefore, John Ali was in a perfect position to forward these letters to Elijah Muhammad.

(6/25/10 Update: It is also important to also note that John Ali had met with Talmadge Hayer on February 20, 1965, the evening before the assassination of Malcolm X. – On the Eve of Malcolm X’s Birthday, Updated Assassination Info)

The most important aspect, however, is not whether Ali was the high-level agent, but the fact that the FBI did indeed have a high-level person in the NOI in their employ. Overall, the main value of the book is that all of the spy agencies in the United States were deeply involved as infiltrators and agent provocateurs (Judas Factors) to set the stage for Malcolm X’s assassination.

The evidence provided by the book is irrefutable proof that the government had the motive to assassinate Malcolm X and the ability, through its COINTELPRO spy operations, to orchestrate his assassination.

It is now time to open up all the files of the CIA and the FBI, as well as the thousands of pages of files of the New York City Police Department, so that the truth about the assassination of Malcolm X can be exposed.

Certain things seem agreed upon by everybody: The Organization of Afro-American Unity had scheduled a rally on Sunday afternoon, February 21, at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem. This was one week after Malcolm’s home was fire-bombed and he and his family narrowly escaped injury or death. People entering the rally were not searched. On the other hand, they were all scrutinized by OAAU aides as they entered the hall.

Malcolm had just begun to speak when two men began a scuffle deliberately designed to distract the attention of Malcolm’s guards. Three men rushed toward Malcolm, opening fire and wounding him mortally; they then ran out of the ballroom, pursued by several of Malcolm’s supporters.

Police said that one of the three, identified later as Talmadge Hayer, twenty-two, of Paterson, New Jersey, had received a bullet in the leg by the time he got to the exit of the building. The police also alleged that he had been wounded by Reuben Francis, a Malcolm guard. Hayer was seized outside the building by the people pursuing him. So was another man. The people began to beat and kick Hayer and the second man. Police arrived and rescued the two being beaten, taking them away from the crowd. The third man got away. He got away because the crowd did not catch him. Hayer and the second man also would have got away if the crowd hadn’t caught and held them until the police showed up.

Now let us turn to the New York Herald Tribune dated Monday, February 22 [1965]. This is a morning paper, which means that the first edition of the paper dated Monday actually appeared Sunday evening, a few hours after the killing. The top headline in the first (city) edition reads: Malcolm X Slain by Gunmen as 400 in Ballroom Watch. The subhead, over the lead article by Jimmy Breslin, reads: Police Rescue Two Suspects.

Breslin’s story in this edition reports that Hayer was “taken to Bellevue Prison Ward and was sealed off by a dozen policemen. The other suspect was taken to the Wadsworth Avenue precinct, where the city’s top policemen immediately converged and began one of the heaviest homicide investigations this city has ever seen.”

Next we turn to a later (late city) edition of the same paper for the same day. The top headline is unchanged. But the subhead is different. This time it reads, Police Rescue One Suspect. The “second” suspect has dropped not only out of the headline, but out of Breslin’s story too. Nothing about his being caught and beaten by the crowd, nothing about his being rescued by the police, nothing about his being taken to the Wadsworth station, nothing about the city’s top police converging on that station. Not only does he disappear from Breslin’s story in the late city edition, but he disappears from the Herald Tribune altogether from that date to this.

Perhaps the whole thing never happened? Perhaps Breslin, in the heat of the moment, had in his first story reported a mere rumor as a fact, and, being unable to verify it, decided not to repeat it in later editions?

But there are three morning papers in New York, and in their first editions they all said it happened.

For example, let us examine the first (city) edition of the New York Times for February 22. The subhead is very clear: “Police Hold Two for Questioning.” From the Times’s city edition, we even learn the name of the cop who captured the “second” man. It is Patrolman Thomas Hoy, who is quoted as saying he had “grabbed a suspect” being chased by some people.

But when we turn to the late city edition of the same Times, printed only a few hours later, we find that its subhead, too, has changed. It now reads: One Is Held in Killing. But the story hasn’t yet been changed altogether. Patrolman Hoy still remains in the story, and so does the “second” man who has dropped out of the subhead. In fact, the story has more about Hoy than it had in the city edition.

This time the Times reports: “‘As I brought him to the front of the ballroom, the crowd began beating me and the suspect,’ Patrolman Hoy said. He said he put this man – not otherwise identified later for newsmen – into a police car to be taken to the Wadsworth Avenue station.” Then Hoy’s captive disappears from the Times as completely and as permanently as he did from the Herald Tribune, and from all the other daily papers. But there cannot be any doubt in the mind of anyone reading the accounts I have cited that a second man was captured and taken away by the police.

Who was he?

Why did the press lose interest in him so suddenly, at a time that it was filling its pages with all kinds of material about the murder, including the silliest trivialities and wildest rumors?

[text copyright 1976, 1991 Pathfinder Press] Found at:

Government’s Motive To Neutralize Martin Luther King

Photograph by Benedict Fernandez. Published in: Kasher, Steven.
The Civil Rights Movement: A Photographic History, 1954–68
New York: Abbeville Press, 1996

Martin Luther King and Dr. Benjamin Spock at the head of the Anti-Vietnam War March
from Central Park to the United Nations Building, New York City, April 15,1967

From the time of the King assassination, the many inconsistencies in the Government’s case that James Earl Ray was the sole assassin were well publicized. When the COINTELPRO disruption operations of the government against the civil rights movement, the antiwar movement, and radicals and socialists were exposed; The United States House of Representatives’ Select Committee on Assassinations, under pressure from these exposures and the Civil Rights Movement, did an investigation in 1979 with the purpose to reconfirm the Government’s case. Immediately after it released the report; affirming that Ray was the lone assassin;this committee sealed all of the evidence it had in its possession for 50 years (until 2029). Thus, we were left with nothing but the integrity of the Senators to justify their ’findings’; rather than the facts. The only logical reason to keep the files secret is to protect the guilty.

Recently, new facts on this assassination have come to light. On Dec. 8, 1999, a jury awarded Coretta Scott King and her family $100 in damages resulting from a conspiracy to murder her late husband, Martin Luther King. The trial was initiated by the admission of Lloyd Jowers on national TV in 1993 that he had hired King’s assassin as a favor to an underworld figure who was a friend. At the conclusion of the trial, Dexter King, Dr. King’s son, said, After today, we don’t want questions like, ’Do you believe James Earl Ray killed your father?’ I’ve been hearing that all my life. No, I don’t, and this is the end of it. This was the most incredible cover-up of the century, and now it has been exposed. Now we can finally move on with our lives.

The King family, along with their attorney, William Pepper, plan to lobby historians and elected officials to get the official record of the assassination changed. There have always been many unanswered questions about the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. From the beginning it has been clear that the FBI was involved to one degree or another.

The FBI leaked the information to the Memphis press that King was going to be staying at a white hotel a couple of days prior to his arrival in the city. This forced King to stay at the less secure Lorraine Motel. This gave time to anyone who wanted King dead to plan an assassination and made it more difficult for the FBI to be accused of the crime.

The question remains: Why would the government be part of the conspiracy against King? Why would they want him dead? A key to understanding the government’s motive is that Martin Luther King had a different political perspective at the time of his death than when he made his 1963 I Have a Dream speech. His final speeches and actions reveal that he had begun to view the struggle for equality as an economic struggle and the capitalist economic system as the problem.

In one of his last speeches, given at Stanford University in April 1967 and titled the The Other America, King addressed the problem of the rich and the poor in this country. Instead of his dream, he talked about the nightmare of the economic condition of Blacks. He talked about “work-starved men searching for jobs that did not exist”; about the Black population living on a “lonely island of poverty surrounded by an ocean of material prosperity”; and about living in a “triple ghetto of race, poverty, and human misery.” He explained that after World War II, the unemployment rate between Blacks and whites was equal and that in the years between then and 1967, Black unemployment had become double the rate for white workers. He also spoke about how Black workers made half the wages of white workers.

From his experience when he started his campaign for equality in Chicago and elsewhere in the North, King concluded in this speech that to deal with this problem of the Two Americas was much more difficult than to get rid of legal segregation. He pointed out that the northern liberals, who had given moral and financial support to the struggle against Jim Crow, would not give such support to the efforts to end economic segregation. He also polemicized against the concept that people should pick themselves up by their own bootstraps. In the course of explaining the obstacles that Blacks faced coming into this country that Europeans did not have, he stated: “It is a cruel jest to say to a bootless man to pick himself up by his own bootstraps.” Black people, he said, were “impoverished aliens in their own land.”

In this speech King also opposed the war in Vietnam. He criticized the government for spending hundreds of millions of dollars for war and not for equality. He stated his goal to organize and mobilize forces to fight for economic equality. In his last letter, requesting support for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1968, he wrote:

“It was obdurate government callousness to misery that first stoked the flames of rage and frustration. With unemployment a scourge in Negro ghettos, the government still tinkers with half-hearted measures, refuses still to become an employer of last resort. It asks the business community to solve the problems as though its past failures qualified it for success.”

He also stated this outlook at the SCLC Convention of Aug. 1967:

“We’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life’s marketplace. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. It means that questions must be raised. ’Who owns this oil? ... Who owns the iron ore?... Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that is two-thirds water?’”

On Page 602, A testament of hope: the essential writings and speeches of Martin Luther: King states the course that he was planning to take in the fight for economic equality:

“The Emergence of social initiatives by a revitalized labor movement would be taking place as Negros are placing economic issues on the highest agenda. The coalition of an energized section of labor, Negroes, unemployed, and welfare recipients may be the source of power that reshapes economic relationships and ushers in a breakthrough to a new level of social reform.” ...

He continues on Page 631:

“There is nothing except shortsightedness to prevent us from guaranteeing an annual minimum – and livable – income for every American family.

“There is nothing but a lack of social vision to prevent us from paying an adequate wage to every American citizen whether he be a hospital worker, laundry worker, maid, or day laborer.

“There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peaces will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from remolding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a true brotherhood.” ...

These words have even more meaning in today’s world. At that time, the stock market was below 1,000 points. Today, it is above 10,000 points, and yet conditions for Blacks are still lower than after World War II.

At the time of their assassinations, both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were embarking on a course in opposition to the capitalist system. It is clear from reading and listening to their final speeches that they had both evolved to similar conclusions as to capitalism’s role in the maintenance of racism. That is why they were neutralized.

Civil Rights Struggle for the 21st Century

’I Am A Man’ March 29, 1968: Scene in Memphis

Unlike Malcolm X, who never got the opportunity to act upon his convictions, Martin Luther King was organizing a movement to obtain his stated goals when he was assassinated in Memphis. He was in Memphis to build “the coalition of an energized section of labor, Negroes, unemployed, and welfare recipients” in support of striking municipal garbage workers. If such a force had been launched, the whole power of the anti-war and civil rights movement in the 1960s could have transformed the labor movement and become “the source of power that reshapes economic relationships and ushers in a breakthrough to a new level of social reform.” Such a coalition, as King envisioned it thirty-three years ago, is needed today. The best tribute to Martin Luther King and Malcolm X would be to begin anew to build a movement based on the ideas and the concepts that they had developed at the time of their untimely deaths.

Unfortunately, the civil rights movement, after Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, subordinated independent mass struggle in the streets to electoral activity: to elect Democrats. Black Democratic politicians under the slogan: “vote for me and I’ll set you free,” began distributing “war on poverty” money to Black organizations. What W.E.B. DuBois called the “talented tenth” got government jobs and became comfortable. This whole process demobilized the civil rights movement of the Black masses, who were subsequently left behind.

Today, the bankruptcy of this policy has come home to roost upon all workers as pensions, wages, our standard of living, etc. are under attack and devalued by inflation. Blacks and other minorities especially have faced the brunt of these attacks. They are disproportionately among the ranks of the unemployed and the underemployed.

On the question of civil rights, conditions have reverted to the 60s for the Black masses and for Latinos. According to the Harvard Civil Rights Project the nation’s schools have become re-segregated along Black, Latino, and economic lines. Throughout this country, the inner cities are being gentrified as Blacks and the poor are forced out and scattered throughout the land. The action in response to Hurricane Katrina and the explosion of the immigrant rights movement; a reflection of the rise of the indigenous people of all of Latin America for their rights, bring hope for a better future and are just a hint of what’s to come.

As we make a balance sheet of the Civil Right’s Movement against the backdrop of the world and domestic situation at the opening of the 21st century, it is clear that Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Dream” is not possible under the “Nightmare” of capitalism. The modern-day tyranny of the multinationals and their beholden representatives in government is based on dividing working people worldwide on the basis of race, nationality, and gender. There is no way forward for Black and Latino workers, or even for their white counterparts, under capitalism. If the system of capitalism is based on the exploitation of Labor, and one of the foremost methods of capitalist exploitation of Labor is the weapon of racism, how can any lasting solution to this problem of humanity be achieved under capitalism? As Malcolm X said: “.... Racism is profitable, if it wasn’t profitable it wouldn’t exist.

At Frogmore, S.C. November 14, 1966 King echoed Malcolm X when he said in a speech in front of his staff:

“You can’t talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can’t talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You’re really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry.... Now this means that we are treading in difficult water, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong... with capitalism....

“There must be a better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.”

The only permanent solution to the exploitation and oppression of African-Americans is Socialism, based on the multi-racial working class becoming the masters of their own society, culture, and economy. Only on this basis can the age-old double exploitation of Blacks be eliminated and replaced by a society fit for all human beings to live in. Only on this basis can the African-American working class take its rightful place as masters of the country that was built by the blood and sweat of its slavery: both the chattel slavery of the plantation and the wage slavery of the city.

The lesson of this history is that if we keep our politics independent of the Republican and Democratic Parties and the government; if we rely upon our own power in the streets; if we take up the struggle where Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. left off, we will win. September, 2006

1. The Militant, March 1964

The Militant, March 1964

March 12, 1964 Press Statement By Malcolm X

The following is the text of the statement made by Malcolm X in opening his press conference at New York’s Park Sheraton Hotel, March 12.

Because 1964 threatens to be a vary explosive year on the racial front, and because I myself intend to be very active in every phase on the American Negro struggle for Human Rights, I have called this press conference this morning to clarify my own position in the struggle – especially in regard to politics and nonviolence.

The problem facing our people here in America is bigger than all other personal or organizational differences. Therefore, as leaders, we must stop worrying about the threat that we think we pose to each other’s personal prestige, and concentrate our united efforts toward solving the unending hurt that is being done daily to our people here in America.

I am going to organize and head a new Mosque in New York City, known as the Muslim Mosque, Inc. This gives us a religious base, and the spiritual force necessary to rid our people of the vices that destroy the moral fiber of our community.

Our political philosophy. will be Black Nationalism. Our economic and social philosophy will be Black Nationalism. Our cultural emphasis will be Black Nationalism.

Many of our people aren’t religiously inclined” so the Muslim Mosque, Inc., will be organized in such manner to provide for the active participation of all Negroes in our political, economic, and social programs, despite their religious or non-religious beliefs.

The political ’philosophy of Black Nationalism means: we must control the politics and the politicians of our community. They must no longer take orders from outside forces. We will organize and sweep out of office all Negro politicians who are puppets for the outside forces.

Our accent will be upon youth: we need new ideas, new methods, new approaches. We will call upon young students of political science’ throughout the nation to help us. We will encourage these young students to launch their own independent study, and then give us their analysis and their suggestions. We are completely disenchanted with the old, adult, established politicians. We want to see some new faces – more militant faces.

Concerning the 1964 elections: we will keep our plans on this a secret until a later date - but we don’t intend for our people to be the victims of a political sellout’ again in 1964. The Muslim Mosque, Inc.:, will remain wide-open for ideas and financial aid from all quarters.

  1. § Whites can help us, but they can’t Join us.
  2. § There can be no black-white unity until there is first some’ black unity.
  3. § There can be no workers solidarity until there is first some racial solidarity.
  4. § We cannot think of uniting with others, until after we have first united among ourselves.
  5. § We cannot think of being acceptable to others until we have first proven acceptable to ourselves.

  6. § One can’t unite bananas with scattered leaves.

Concerning nonviolence: it Is criminal to teach a man not to defend himself when he is the constant victim of brutal attacks. It is legal and lawful to own a shotgun or a rifle. We believe in obeying the law.

In areas where our people are the constant victims of brutality, and the government seems unable or unwilling to protect them, we should form rifle clubs that can ’be used to ’defend our lives and our property in times of emergency, such as happened last year in BirmIngham, Plaque mine Ia., Cambridge, Md., and Danville, Va. When our people are being bitten by dogs, they are within their rights to kill those dogs.

We should be peaceful, law abiding – but the time has Come for the American Negro to fight back in self-defense whenever and wherever he is being unjustly and unlawfully attacked. . It the government thinks I am wrong for saying this, then let the government start doing its job.

Stanford University April 14, 1967

Stanford University April 14, 1967

A Film by Allen Willis

Allen Willis has the distinction of being the dean of African American filmmakers in the San Francisco Bay Area. Those who know the rich history of the area’s independent filmmaking community acknowledge him as the founding father. He worked for the San Francisco public broadcasting station KQED-TV from 1963 to 1983 and was the first African American news and documentary cinematographers in the Bay Area. The Other America Speech is available in VHS and DVD formats at $19.95 each, and can be purchased directly by calling 510.843.3699.

The online video of this speech can be found at:

The transcript of this speech can be found at:

Aurora Forum Transcript Martin Luther King The Other America Speech at Stanford 04.15.07

My introduction to King’s, The Other America, for the San Francisco BayView:

“The Jan. 15 birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will be celebrated this year as America’s only ‘Black holiday’ Monday, Jan. 19. On this day, the ruling class and their mass media always feature his 1963 I Have a Dream speech, as if he never evolved beyond that point.

“During his lifetime, as a leader of the civil rights movement, King was constantly hounded by the government with the most savage malice, the most furious hatred and the most unscrupulous campaigns of lies and slander. Since his death, an effort has been made to convert him into a harmless icon – to canonize him.

“Below is one of his last speeches, given over 40 years ago and one year before his assassination, at Stanford University in April 1967 and titled the The Other America. Here he speaks not of a dream but of the nightmarish economic condition of Black people. When he talks about ‘work-starved men searching for jobs that do not exist’ and living on a ‘lonely island of poverty surrounded by an ocean of material prosperity,’ the speech remains timely in today’s world.”

Roland Sheppard is a writer and activist and former BA of the Painters Union in San Francisco. Email him at and visit his website,

Last updated 25 May 2021