Malcolm X’s Daughter Disputes Claims About Father’s Sexuality

The discussion with Ilyasah Shabazz went from tense to downright hostile after several questions about the allegations.

By Jamilah King Apr 25, 2011

The fallout continues over the late Dr. Manning Marable’s controversial autobiography of Malcolm X. The controversy in question is a comparatively small section of the book in question, "Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention" that speculates the late Civil Rights icon may have been "gay for pay" back in his hustler days. Malcolm’s daughter, IIaysah Shabazz, recently spoke to NPR’s Michele Martin on "Tell Me More", and the discussion went from tense to downright hostile after several questions about the allegations.

MARTIN: Forgive me, and I completely credit your perspective on this, but it is also the case that children often don’t know the complete details of their parents’ lives because it’s not really their business.

SHABAZZ: It’s not their business.

MARTIN: Particularly their interpersonal relationships. So is it possible that perhaps Dr. Marable had access to information that you did not? Or that was just uncomfortable for you to explore because…

Ms. SHABAZZ: Not at all. I mean, listen, I have a lot of friends who are gay. I have, you know, I hate to say, but some of my best friends are gay. OK? So, if my father experienced persons of the same sex before he became the icon Malcolm X, you know, then that would be his experience. But he would’ve spoken about it. And I think because there were so many other allegations, especially that my mother cheated on him with his best friend when he was in Africa. If we even consider that the FBI looked for a very long time for something to get on my father, something to discredit or to tarnish his image, then certainly they would’ve found the information.

Listen to the interview or read the full transcript here.

Gender Matters columnist Akiba Solomon wrote weeks ago that the allegations in question appear on only two pages of a 600 page book. And Rod McCollum also sums it up nicely: "Given the intense anti-gay culture of the Nation of Islam and Islam, and the cultural norms of the 1950s and 1960s, it does not seem likely that even if the claims were true, Malcolm X (or anyone else in his position) would publicly discuss a same-sex experience."