Betty Shabazz, Surviving Malcolm X

( 1 )


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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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, Surviving 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, Surviving Malcolm X 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 Shabazz as 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: 9781402203190
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 2/1/2005
  • Pages: 666
  • Sales rank: 912,197
  • Product dimensions: 1.34 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 6.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Russell J. Rickford is the coauthor of Spoken Soul, about the expressive qualities of black vernacular, and he is a former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Howard University and studied under such black scholars as Molefi Kete Asante, Russell Adams, Charles Metz and E. Ethelbert Miller. He was born in Guyana and currently lives in New York City, where he is a PhD candidate in history at Columbia University.
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Table of Contents


Foreword by Myrlie Evers-Williams Introduction: A Miracle in the Desert Chapter 1: A Brass Valentine Chapter 2: A Velvet Glove Chapter 3: Leaving the Grave Chapter 4: Windows of the Heart Chapter 5: Sinews of Independence Chapter 6: A Perilous Orbit Chapter 7: Foresight Chapter 8: Revelations Chapter 9: The Death Card Chapter 10: After the Winter Chapter 11: Bahiyah Chapter 12: Reconstruction Chapter 13: Humanist Chapter 14: "Dr. Shabazz"
Chapter 15: Journey to Respectability Chapter 16: Repercussion Chapter 17: Celebrity Chapter 18: Mother's Day Chapter 19: Starting Over Epilogue: Homegoing Notes Index About the Author

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 17, 2014

    A Must Read

    This is an excellent book by Betty Shabazz. Her journey into the pass about her and her late husband Malcolm X takes you on a fantastic passage. I encourage everyone to read this piece of work by Betty.

    William B. Turner

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