“Transcripts of the Malcolm X Assassination Trial” — Window on a turbulent time

By Mitch Farish | January 26, 2022

A Black man wearing glasses and a coat and tie, his hand on his head.
Malcolm X waiting for a press conference to begin on March 26, 1964, Wikimedia Commons

Learn about the assassination of civil rights leader Malcolm X in the new Library resource “Transcripts of the Malcolm X Assassination Trial.” At the time of his assassination, Malcolm X was seen as a controversial figure for giving voice to ideas that remain relevant to this day in light of the continued killings of unarmed Black people. He stated that it was hypocritical of whites to expect that Black people would not arm themselves for defense against racists. He told African Americans not to trust white liberals who, he argued, thought of them as “knee-grows,” and that Black people should see themselves as part of the majority of the world’s population that was brown. He was a follower of Islam but broke with the Nation of Islam and its leader Elijah Muhammad who espoused Black separatism. He openly criticized Elijah Muhammed and told Alex Haley, writer of The Autobiography of Malcolm X, “If I’m alive when this book comes out, it will be a miracle.”

On February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was preparing to address the Organization of Afro-American Unity in Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom when a disturbance broke out. Malcolm and his bodyguards rushed into the crowd to restore order. Gunfire erupted, silencing a voice whose message seems more prescient with the passage of time.

The “Transcripts of the Malcolm X Assassination Trial” resource contains the full record of the New York State Supreme Court proceedings against ­­­­three men charged in the assassination. It includes forty-two fully searchable manuscripts that can be downloaded as PDFs or read as plain text on the web:

  • Full testimony of all witnesses.
  • Testimony of two witnesses who spoke in secrecy to hide their identities.
  • Preliminary motions.
  • Summations.
  • The court’s charge.
  • Verdicts and sentences.
  • A confession made years after the trial by one of the men convicted.

For anyone interested in the life of the charismatic civil rights leader and in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the “Transcripts of the Malcolm X Assassination Trial” is a valuable research tool shedding light on a unique and turbulent time in American history. It can be located in the Library’s A-Z Databases list.