12 Facts About Betty Shabazz
Learn more about the life of Malcolm X’s wife.
“Betty & Coretta,” a film about the friendship between Coretta Scott King and Betty Shabazz, will premiere Feb. 2 on the Lifetime Television Network. Mary J. Blige, who stars as Malcolm X’s widow in the movie, says she learned a lot about Betty Shabazz by taking the role. Here's more about the life and work of the late activist, wife and mother, Betty Shabazz.
Betty Shabazz was born Betty Dean Sanders on May 28, 1934, to unmarried parents Shelman Sandlin and Ollie Mae Sanders.
There’s dispute about Shabazz’s place of birth. While she maintained that she was born in Detroit, school records list Pinehurst, Ga., as her birthplace.
After reportedly suffering abuse at her mother’s hands, Shabazz was taken in by foster parents Lorenzo and Helen Malloy, a middle class and socially active black Detroit couple.
She attended Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute before heading to New York to become a nurse.
In the south, Shabazz first experienced racial segregation. The racism she endured eventually caused her to leave. However, even in the north she experienced discrimination, finding that black nurses received worse assignments than their white counterparts in New York.
She joined the Nation of Islam in 1956, at Malcolm X’s urging, and married him two years later.
Shabazz and Malcolm X had six daughters, two of whom are twins.
With her nurse’s training, Shabazz tried resuscitate Malcolm X after he was gunned down at New York’s Audubon Ballroom in 1965. Her attempts failed, and he died from his wounds.
Shabazz struggled to raise her six daughters following her husband’s assassination, but royalties from "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" and his speeches helped the family to make ends meet.
She earned a doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts in 1975. She joined the staff of Medgar Evers College in New York in 1976 and remained there until her death.
Shabazz was not just friends with Coretta Scott King, but also Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers.
Shabazz died in 1997 in a house fire set by her grandson, Malcolm. She was 63.
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