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Cover image for Betty Shabazz : a remarkable story of survival and faith before and after Malcolm X
Betty Shabazz : a remarkable story of survival and faith before and after Malcolm X
Publication Information:
Naperville, Ill. : Sourcebooks, c2003.
Physical Description:
xxii, 633 p., [8] p. of plates : ill. ; 24 cm.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book 921 SHABAZZ 1 1

On Order



Groundbreaking biography of Malcolm X's widow based on extensive interviews with those who knew Shabazz as well as countless records and documents, including recently declassified FBI, CIA and New York Police files.

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Booklist Review

Just as the achievements of her husband, Malcolm X, were overshadowed by those of Martin Luther King Jr., Betty Shabazz's accomplishments have been overshadowed by those of King's widow. Rickford corrects that imbalance with this penetrating biography. Drawing on interviews with family, friends, and colleagues, as well as documentation from FBI, CIA, and police files, Rickford details Shabazz's early life; how she met, married, and lived with Malcolm; and how she made a life for herself after his assassination. Betty chafed at the role of quiet, patient, and obedient Muslim wife and mother. But she deeply loved her fiery, driven husband, reluctantly sharing him with first the Black Muslims and later the black nationalist movement. It took years after his death before she fully understood the scope of her husband's influence. By then she had transformed herself from Mrs. Malcolm to Dr. Shabazz, the protector of her husband's legacy. Rickford details her career as a civil rights leader, her valiant efforts to raise her six daughters alone, and the final tragedy that ended her life. --Vanessa Bush Copyright 2003 Booklist

Choice Review

Betty Shabazz came from a broken home but found refuge in an adoptive middle-class family in Detroit. She studied nursing at Tuskegee and received her practical training at a hospital in New York. A colleague introduced her to the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X, and she welcomed the authenticity of her identity and the aims of black nationalism. She followed the Nation's strictures for women and wives but struggled with Malcolm's patriarchy and chauvinism, and on several occasions left him briefly in protest. After his assassination, Betty found healing and recognition in the public acclaim of Malcolm, but she also created her own persona through volunteer work, an EdD, and her administrative work at Medgar Evers College. She still supported nationalism, but her association with middle-class reformers caused "Malcolmites" to conclude that she had resumed a centrist position. She earned respect by rejecting the extremes of the Nation and the "dreams" of the idealists. Tragically, she died when her deeply disturbed grandson set fire to her residence. This sympathetic but revealing biography is a worthy addition to the literature on black nationalism and its leaders and is based on numerous interviews and secondary materials. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries. L. H. Grothaus emeritus, Concordia University

Library Journal Review

With a journalist's eye for telling detail, former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Rickford limns paradoxes and puzzles in the compelling and flawed faces of Betty Dean Sanders (1934-97), who in 1958 became Mrs. Malcolm X and bore him six daughters. More chronicle than analysis, the smoothly unfolding biography marches from abandoned child to Detroit home-girl to wife-and-mother to martyr's widow, keeper of the memory, and, finally, powerful, independent advocate of education and womanpower. The story centers on the couple's seven-year marriage, and Malcolm often dominates. Impressions from notables interviewed, along with a rafter of fascinating details from Rickford's comprehensive life-and-times approach, make this a valuable addition to Laura S. Jeffrey's young adult Betty Shabazz: Sharing the Vision of Malcolm X and Jamie Brown's handsome mini-coffee-table book Betty Shabazz: A Sisterfriends Tribute in Words and Pictures and also to recent views from inside Malcolm X's family, such as daughter Ilyasah Shabazz's Growing Up X. Recommended for collections on blacks, biography, Civil Rights, recent America, or women's studies.-Thomas J. Davis, Arizona State Univ., Tempe (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Forewordp. ix
Introduction: A Miracle in the Desertp. xiii
Chapter 1 A Brass Valentinep. 1
Chapter 2 A Velvet Glovep. 23
Chapter 3 Leaving the Gravep. 41
Chapter 4 Windows of the Heartp. 71
Chapter 5 Sinews of Independencep. 89
Chapter 6 A Perilous Orbitp. 117
Chapter 7 Foresightp. 139
Chapter 8 Revelationsp. 163
Chapter 9 The Death Cardp. 195
Chapter 10 After the Winterp. 235
Chapter 11 Bahiyahp. 275
Chapter 12 Reconstructionp. 293
Chapter 13 Humanistp. 327
Chapter 14 "Dr. Shabazz"p. 357
Chapter 15 Journey to Respectabilityp. 383
Chapter 16 Repercussionp. 407
Chapter 17 Celebrityp. 441
Chapter 18 Mother's Dayp. 479
Chapter 19 Starting Overp. 521
Epilogue: Homegoingp. 545
Notesp. 549
Indexp. 619
About the Authorp. 634
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