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On Valentine’s Day 1965, Malcolm X’s Home Was Firebombed

The attack occurred just one week before he would be assassinated

A week before his death, Malcolm X’s Queens, New York, home was firebombed in the early hours of Valentine’s Day 1965. Though blame has been pinned on the Nation of Islam, whom Malcolm X had famously separated from, the actual identity of the attacker has never been certain. There is evidence to suggest that whoever firebombed the house was also the same group behind Malcolm X’s eventual assassination one week later in Harlem.

Here is the original report from The New York Times, followed by researcher Karl Evanzz's take on what really happened.


Wife and 4 Daughters Also Escape as Flames Sweep Brick House in Queens

By M.S. Handler (New York)

" Malcolm X, the controversial Black Nationalist leader, and his family escaped injury early yesterday when a firebomb attack wrecked the small brick house in which they lived in East Elmhurst, Queens.

Two, or possibly three, bottles of gasoline with fuses were hurled through the windows of the living room. They exploded and set fire to the house, at 23-11 97th Street.

Malcolm X had returned from a visit to France and England Saturday afternoon. He and his wife and four daughters were sleeping in bedrooms down a hall about 10 feet from the living room. The Molotov Cocktails crashed through the windows and exploded at about 2:45 a.m.

Malcolm X said he was awakened by the first explosion. He rushed his wife and children through the kitchen food into a small paved areaway behind the house and out of the range of the fire.

The blaze was quickly extinguished by the Fire Department, which together with the Police Department bomb squad, opened an investigation. In the absence of firm clues, it was assumed that the firebombs were thrown from a passing automobile.

The house has been the subject of prolonged controversy between Malcolm X and the Chicago-based Black Muslim movement, of which he is the former New York representative. The Black Muslims hold title to the house. They demanded Malcolm vacate it when he broke with them to found his own organization.

A civil court ruling gave Malcolm until Jan. 31 to vacate, but he appealed for a stay. A decision on the appeal is scheduled for today.

Malcolm’s wife Betty, and his daughters--Attilah. 6; Qubilah 4; Ilyasah, 2; and 5-month-old Gamilah--were given shelter by neighbors yesterday. Later Malcolm and his wife returned to collect the few personal possessions that survived the fire. Then the Black Nationalist left for Detroit to keep a speaking engagement.

In a telephone interview, Malcolm said in Detroit that the attack could have come from several quarters--supporters of the Black Muslims or of the Ku Klux Klan, which he has been attacking in the South, or related groups. Malcolm recently visited Selma, where he attacked the Klan and other groups.

Malcolm said that he and his wife had been receiving anonymous telephoned threats daily for some time.

He said that he was awakened yesterday by an explosion and that, as best as could remember, there were two or possible three detonations.

The house is a modest one. It consists of a small living room, a dining room, two tiny bedrooms, a former utility room used for the baby’s crib, a bathroom and kitchen. There is a small room under the gabled roof. There is also a small garage behind the areaway.

Malcolm was the center of incidents in France and Britain before returning to New York last Saturday. The French immigration police refused him permission to land at the Paris airfield and sent him back to England.

In Britain, he was taken on a tour of Smethwick, an area that has had racial problems by the British Broadcasting Corporation. The B.B.C. was criticized by some for the tour."

The following excerpt appears in Karl Evanzz’s The Judas Factor: The Plot to Kill Malcolm X (Basic Books, 1993; 291-292):

“ ... the New York Times reported that police had allegedly discovered an unlit Molotov Cocktail on a dresser in Malcolm X’s home. Arson investigators tried to give reporters the impression that Malcolm X might have started the fire, and had inadvertently left a Molotov Cocktail on a dresser. Malcolm X was understandably incensed. His wife had discovered the ‘whiskey bottle containing gasoline on a dresser,’ Malcolm X said disgustedly. She was the one who pointed it out to firemen, not vice versa.

‘We knew it didn’t belong there,’ he said, science they didn’t drink alcoholic beverages and would not have had ‘whiskey in our home.’

James 3X Shabazz, minister of the Harlem mosque, seconded the implied theory of the arson investigators. ‘Malcolm X might have firebombed the home” James 3X said before television cameras, in order ‘to get publicity.’

A few hours later, a black New York City fireman met secretly with Malcolm X and told him that several firefighters had seen ‘a man wearing a police uniform’ take the bottle of gasoline into the house after the bombing.

‘When they planted the gasoline, I knew it was no longer the Muslims,’ Ella Collins said. ‘Only police could have planted it, because as the fire died down the neighbors went into the house to get some clothes for the children from their rooms, some things that hadn’t burned. And none of them saw this jug of gasoline when they took things from the baby’s dresser. And then the police squad arrived and took over the house, and they produced the gasoline.’

Betty Shabazz concurs. ‘Only someone in the uniform of a fireman or policeman could have planted the bottle of gasoline on my baby’s dresser,’ she said. ‘It was to make it appear as if we had bombed our own home.’"


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