The New York Daily News remembers Malcolm X 50 years after his assassination.
Remembering civil rights giant Malcolm X 50 years after his assassination
The controversial activist, who inspired many and infuriated others, was gunned down Feb. 21, 1965, at the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights
By Rich Schapiro | NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Harlem was ready to explode.
It was just before midnight on April 26, 1957, and at least 4,000 protesters were massed outside the 28th Precinct stationhouse on Eighth Ave.
Hours earlier, 32-year-old Johnson Hinton and two friends had been walking along W. 125th St. when they spotted two cops beating another black man with nightsticks.
“You’re not in Alabama!” yelled Hinton and his pals. “This is New York!”
The officers turned their nightsticks on Hinton, a member of the Nation of Islam, delivering several crushing blows to his head and face.
Hinton, despite suffering lacerations on his scalp and bleeding on the brain, was now being held inside the four-story, red-brick 28th Precinct police station.
The crowd was growing impatient. A race riot seemed imminent.
A ripple of excitement swept through the crush of people when a 6-foot-3 man in a black suit and spectacles showed up and strode inside the stationhouse. The demonstrators, many of whom were Nation of Islam members, knew exactly who he was.
The fiery head of the Nation’s new Harlem mosque, Malcolm was allowed to see Hinton. But the cops refused to return the battered man to the hospital.
Malcolm, sensing an impasse, stepped outside the stationhouse and flashed a hand signal to his Nation of Islam followers. They immediately started marching off — silent and stern — like an Army battalion having just received orders from their general.
The rest of the crowd followed.
A group of NYPD cops watched the scene in awe.
“No one man should have that much power,” one officer told Amsterdam News editor James Hicks.
Hinton was released in the morning — after the Nation paid his $2,500 bail — and taken to Harlem Hospital.
The striking show of force introduced the nation to Malcolm X.
Incendiary, influential and often polarizing, Malcolm led the black nationalist movement with a clenched fist and biting tongue.
His rejection of integration and insistence on black liberation “by any means necessary” made him a hero to large swaths of black people.
To many others, he was seen as a villain and a menace. The militant, anti-establishment rhetoric Malcolm preached sent shivers of fear down the spines of many whites and alarmed some African-Americans.
“Other black leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King included, all engaged in tailoring their language to minimize negative reactions from white America,” said Russell Adams, professor emeritus of African-American studies at Howard University. “Malcolm said in his fashion what many blacks thought and said among themselves.”
Fifty years after his assassination, Malcolm X remains one of the most controversial figures of the 20th century.