Here's What Might've Happened If Malcolm X Survived His Assassination

Malcolm X was an important figure in Black history. The Harlem-based revolutionary was a human rights advocate and activist who fought for racial equality for Black Americans. He rose to national recognition in the early '60s as a member of the Nation of Islam (NOI) and played a major role in its growth; prior to his membership, it was a smaller movement. But in the mid-60s, things soured between Malcolm X and the group's leader Elijah Muhammad, who had previously silenced the revolutionary from speaking. After a very public and nasty departure from the religious faction, Malcolm X left to create his own organization in Harlem. In addition, his revelation of Muhammad's indiscretions (posted on YouTube) made him a lot of enemies, and there were multiple threats on his life and that of his family.

Those threats never wavered, and on Valentine's Day 1965, his house was bombed, per New York Daily News. Curiously, it was the very home that Muhammad had moved to evict Malcolm X and his family from because it was apparently the property of the NOI. Just a week later, on February 21, Malcolm X was assassinated during a speaking event at the Audubon Ballroom. He was 39 years old.

If Malcolm X survived his 1965 assassination

The brazen assassination of one of the most prominent Black activists at the time — albeit purportedly at the hands of his former organization, the NOI — shook and disturbed many. Three men would be arrested and charged for his murder, and two would proclaim their innocence, Innocence Project reports.

The '60s were a turbulent time in America, and in that decade, the United States was rife with the assassinations of public figures  Malcolm X was just one of them. But what if he lived? Malcolm X was only on the rise when he was murdered. Notably, he had formed the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) — an organization that was still in its early stages and aimed at Pan-Africanism. And while he spoke out against white supremacy, he also encouraged self-defense. These views classed him as radical, but nevertheless, they helped define his personal stances on so many issues.

If he had lived, Malcolm X might have continued championing the taking up of arms, says a New York official. State Senator James Sanders stated that he believes the late activist would've remained committed to defending himself against threats. Indeed, Malcolm X was very vocal about reacting to white supremacy and threats with his rifle — one he was famously photographed with it (via Journal-Isms). Despite his newfound non-violence stance before his death, If he survived the assassination attempt merely a week after his home was bombed, he probably would've flipped a few pages back.

Other possible paths following the assassination attempt

As a major and leading Black voice, it is very likely that Malcolm X may have sought public office. He was a great speaker and had a lot of influence and pull. Plus, his career was only getting started. The OAAU was in its infancy, and with Malcolm's popularity, it was most definitely going to grow tremendously in membership. Couple this with the fact that Malcolm X was previously attributed to the NOI's rapid growth, and his separate organization would've likely seen the same growth (via Wesleyan University). According to State Senator James Sanders, Malcolm X's detractors knew this and saw his potential, which explains why they needed to prevent him from becoming more powerful. "In order to stop a person from going someplace, you have to have some idea where they are headed, so I would suggest that Malcolm's enemies had more of an idea where he was going than we do," said Sanders.

Malcolm X spoke passionately about civil rights and the betterment of Black Americans. And as someone who staunchly criticized the American political landscape, there's no telling what him in a public role would have looked like. Still, as a devoted Muslim, if Malcolm X found himself taking on a smaller role after surviving an attempt on his life, it is very likely that he would've become an Imam at some point. Based on this, we can presume he might have moved out of the country.