Betty Shabazz: A Life Before and After Malcolm X

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The gunmen rose from the crowd and set their sights on Malcolm X. The thunder of shotgun blasts ripped through the ballroom, and Betty Shabazz turned to see her husband float backward, keel over and crash to the ballroom stage. She grabbed her children, hurling them beneath a booth and shielding them with her body while the room erupted into screams and chaos. As she lay there squeezing her family, the Betty Shabazz who was the dutiful and obedient wife of the Civil Rights Movement’s most feared leader ceased to ...

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2003 Hard cover New in new dust jacket. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 608 p. Contains: Illustrations. Audience: General/trade.

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Overview

The gunmen rose from the crowd and set their sights on Malcolm X. The thunder of shotgun blasts ripped through the ballroom, and Betty Shabazz turned to see her husband float backward, keel over and crash to the ballroom stage. She grabbed her children, hurling them beneath a booth and shielding them with her body while the room erupted into screams and chaos. As she lay there squeezing her family, the Betty Shabazz who was the dutiful and obedient wife of the Civil Rights Movement’s most feared leader ceased to be, and the woman who emerged would become one of the greatest heroines of our day.

Betty Shabazz: A Remarkabe Story of Survival and Faith before and after Malcolm X is the first major biography of Dr. Betty Shabazz, the unsung and controversial champion of the Civil Rights era. From her early marriage to black liberation’s raging voice through her evolution into a powerful and outspoken African-American leader, Betty Shabazz was in constant struggle to bring freedom and justice to her people. Yet, at times her greatest fight was to struggle through tragedy and hold on to her faith amidst the stereotypes forced on her by a culture of racism and the very people she was trying to liberate.

To read Betty Shabazz is to experience this remarkable life. With eloquent and intimate prose, Russell J. Rickford puts you on the scene as a young Betty Sanders is taken in by foster parents after a troubled childhood. You are there as Malcolm X comes home from a hard day of railing against oppression to hug his children, dote on his wife and laugh. You dive under the table at the Audubon Ballroom as bullets strike Malcolm down. You struggle with Betty Shabazzas she fights to raise six girls alone while earning a doctorate. You stand triumphant with her as she claims her own individuality and fights to build respect for Malcolm. And you stand watch with her daughters as Betty passes away, a victim of yet another tragedy, but this time after a life lived full.

Russell J. Rickford has conducted extensive research to compile this biography, interviewing more than seventy of Betty Shabazz’s family members, friends, colleagues and contemporaries as well as researching countless records and documents, including recently declassified FBI, CIA and New York Police files. This is the first complete look at the life of Betty Shabazz and a new insight into the man who was known as Malcolm X.

Betty Shabazz is the story of a strong woman who faced incredible tragedy and emerged triumphant, compassionate and always full of life. In the end, it is the story of a nation torn apart by hatred learning to heal and forgive.

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Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
Rickford has crafted his book from the voluminous scholarship on Malcolm X, as well as from interviews with Shabazz family friends such as Maya Angelou, Dick Gregory, Percy Sutton, Myrlie Evers-Williams, Haki Madhubuti and Sonia Sanchez. The biography also includes reflections (used sparingly and to poignant effect) of some of the Shabazz daughters. Even though it is short on analysis of the complex psyche of women who have cast their lot with the Nation of Islam, Betty Shabazz is still a vital addition to the brooding and bloody Black Muslim saga. — Evelyn C. White
Publishers Weekly
As much an exceptionally well-culled oral history of mid-century black radicalism as it is a sympathetic, evenhanded look at its subject, this first biography of Dr. Shabazz makes it compellingly clear that the widow of Malcolm X was an inspiring force in her own right. Rickford (Spoken Soul), a former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter, writes in a straightforward reportorial style as concise and analytical as it is breezy and accessible. He draws together the multiple strands of Shabazz's life by quoting an impressive range of firsthand sources, both friendly and skeptical, and presenting their comments with a judicious disinterest that well serves his clear admiration of his subject. After a scattered childhood that landed her among loving foster parents in Detroit and a formative stint at Tuskegee Institute, the 23-year-old Betty Dean Sandlin, Brooklyn nursing student, married 32-year-old Nation of Islam minister Malcolm X in 1958, and lost him seven years later. The manner in which Rickford depicts Malcolm and Betty's finally very different forms of radicalism and faith is central to the book and ends up as a nuanced reckoning of black militancy's toll on its soldiers. The second half details Betty's years after Malcolm's murder, centered on her hard-won 1975 doctorate and professorship at CUNY's Medgar Evers College, but Malcolm haunts almost every page, up to Betty's tragic death in 1997 in a fire set by a grandson. Rickford's skeptical ear (" `When ya die, niggas lie on ya,' hissed one of my sources") keeps the book from tilting toward hagiography, and his inclusion of telling (and often funny) bits of urban myth, aphorism and domestic detail (Malcolm took coffee "integrated"-his word-with cream) give the narrative warmth and punch. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Rickford here chronicles the tragic life of Malcolm X's widow-and her equally tragic death after being severely burned in a fire started by her grandson. Educator/community activist Shabazz (1936-97) struggled to raise six daughters after her husband was assassinated, at the same time earning a doctorate. (LJ 10/15/03) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781402201714
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 11/7/2003
  • Pages: 608
  • Product dimensions: 6.24 (w) x 9.48 (h) x 1.86 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword ix
Introduction: A Miracle in the Desert xiii
Chapter 1 A Brass Valentine 1
Chapter 2 A Velvet Glove 23
Chapter 3 Leaving the Grave 41
Chapter 4 Windows of the Heart 71
Chapter 5 Sinews of Independence 89
Chapter 6 A Perilous Orbit 117
Chapter 7 Foresight 139
Chapter 8 Revelations 163
Chapter 9 The Death Card 195
Chapter 10 After the Winter 235
Chapter 11 Bahiyah 275
Chapter 12 Reconstruction 293
Chapter 13 Humanist 327
Chapter 14 "Dr. Shabazz" 357
Chapter 15 Journey to Respectability 383
Chapter 16 Repercussion 407
Chapter 17 Celebrity 441
Chapter 18 Mother's Day 479
Chapter 19 Starting Over 521
Epilogue: Homegoing 545
Notes 549
Index 619
About the Author 634
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2004

    I thank your parents!

    This book is a great compliment to the Shabazz family. But what a beautiful job MR. RICKFORD has done to deliver it to us, this could not have been that easy!I could not let go of this fine piece of work I was dissapointed only because i perused to quickly! A lot of things i was quite aware of, but the majority hit me with a bang, but a larger amount of admiration,love .This without a doubt will be my reference book whenever I need encouragement or just areminder to succeed on THANK YOU BROTHER AND GOD BLESS!! IF YOUR LIFEIS LIVED THE WAY YOU WRITE IT MUST BE SURROUNDED WITH SUNNA!!!!!!!!!!!!! ONE MORE TIME GOD BLESS YOU.

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