Members of Malcolm X's family were made aware of a letter written by a deceased former police officer stating the New York Police Department and FBI were connected to Malcolm X's 1965 assassination. Michelle Miller shares the story of Raymond Wood's letter, which was made public by his cousin Reginald. Malcolm X's daughter Ilyasah Shabazz and civil rights attorney Ben Crump join "CBS This Morning" to discuss the revelation.
MALCOM X: We are peaceful people. We are loving people. We love everybody who loves us. But we don't love anybody who doesn't love us.
GAYLE KING: This week marks 56 years since civil rights activist Malcolm X was assassinated right here in New York City. For decades, there have been many questions around the circumstances of his death and whether the three men convicted of his murder were actually the people responsible. Well, at a news conference last Saturday, Malcolm X's daughter heard a letter for the very first time that they say is evidence that the NYPD and the FBI conspired to have their father assassinated. CBS This Morning Saturday co-host Michelle Miller explains what this could mean for Malcolm X's legacy.
MALCOM X: White people don't realize how frustrated Negroes have become.
MICHELLE MILLER: Malcolm X was a legendary orator-- charismatic, controversial, revolutionary.
MALCOM X: To lift the struggle for freedom of the Negro in this country from the level of civil rights to the level of human rights.
MICHELLE MILLER: On February 21, 1965, he was assassinated while giving a speech at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem. Now, 56 years later, a letter given to Malcolm X's daughters could hold proof the NYPD and the FBI conspired to have him killed.
REGINALD WOOD: I am relieved that I'm able to share this truth with the world today.
MICHELLE MILLER: Reginald Wood reads the words of his cousin, former undercover cop Raymond Wood, who died in November. He wrote that letter in 2011 to be released upon his death.
REGINALD WOOD: It was my assignment to draw the two men into a felonious federal crime so that they could be arrested by the FBI.
MICHELLE MILLER: Those men were members of Malcolm X's security detail and were arrested days before his assassination.
- There was no security to prevent the gunman from coming into the building.
MICHELLE MILLER: Three members of the Nation of Islam were convicted of the murder.
- Malcolm's death never sat everybody with me.
MICHELLE MILLER: On the heels of the 2020 Netflix documentary Who Killed Malcolm X?, the Manhattan District Attorney's office began a preliminary review last February. After the letter's release, it says the review remains active and ongoing. As for the NYPD and the FBI, they say they have turned over all their relevant records to the DA, and will cooperate. For CBS This Morning, Michelle Miller, New York.
GAYLE KING: First on CBS This Morning, Malcolm X's daughter, that's Ilyasah Shabazz, and civil rights attorney Ben Crump join us to discuss. Good to see you both. I want to start with you, Ilyasah, because I can't imagine what it was like for you as his daughter, hearing those words for the first time on Saturday. What were your thoughts as you heard them?
ILYASAH SHABAZZ: Wow, well first, good morning, Gayle. It's a pleasure to be here with you. When we first heard that letter, it made us think of our father, who was just in his 20s when he burst onto the scene of the civil rights movement, and 39 when he was gunned down, when he was assassinated, in 1965. He gave the biggest critique of America, and he wanted America to live up to her promise of liberty and justice for all. And we have seen historically the injustice against black Americans primarily. And my father worked diligently to ensure the end of this senseless brutality.
GAYLE KING: Were you surprised by the words? Were you surprised to hear what the officer said?
ILYASAH SHABAZZ: I can say I was surprised because I was caught off guard, but it's something that my family and many always wondered. But most importantly, we wanted to ensure that the truth is uncovered.
GAYLE KING: Mhmm. Ben Crump, good to see you Ben. And we should say you're not representing the family at this time, but I know the Wood family brought the letter to you in November. Why was it not revealed until last weekend?
BEN CRUMP: Well, one of the things Reggie Wood wanted to know when he came to me, what do I do with this? Do I turn it to the federal government, to the FBI? And the question was would they simply just suppress it? As this had been a secret for 56 years that Ray Wood had carried under duress. He had been told that there would be personal harm to him and his family if he ever told people about the FBI and the NYPD conspiring to assassinate Malcolm X. And so Gayle, this is about restorative justice, trying to vindicate those who have been wrongfully convicted by Ray Wood, NYPD and the FBI. People like Panther 21, including Tupac Shakur's was mother Afeni Shakur. Those two men who spent almost three decades in prison to keep Ray's secret, you know, for trying to discredit civil rights leaders. And in Malcolm's case, and many believe in Fred Hampton and Martin Luther King's case, led to their deaths.
- Yeah. Ilyasah, I'm curious given what Mr. Crump just said about Officer Wood, the late Officer Wood. I'm very curious what you think of him today. On the one hand, he's written this letter, so the information is now out there. But on the other hand, he was part of it back then, and he was silent for so many years.
ILYASAH SHABAZZ: Well, listen. My parents' home was firebombed on Valentine's Eve as they both lay in bed asleep. A bomb was thrown in the nursery of their baby's room where my sisters and I slept. One week later, my mother witnessed this horrific assassination of her husband. She was a young woman with four babies and pregnant with twins. And I know that she was excited to walk into that Audubon Ballroom that Sunday afternoon to see her husband. And she walked out shattered. She tended to his knees and opened his tie and, you know, in spite of all of this trauma that she endured, she raised her six daughters with love, kindness, joy, I just take my hat off to her.
GAYLE KING: to your mother, yes.
ILYASAH SHABAZZ: If we can find out--
GAYLE KING: --the truth. We could find out the truth. Ilyasah, we don't have much time left. I know Ben, you've called for a commission on this. But I'm curious, Ilyasah, about, what do you think is the biggest misperception about your dad. And do you think his message is being perceived differently these days? Can you say it in a couple of sentences.
ILYASAH SHABAZZ: Yes I can Young people were politicized this summer when they witnessed the death of George Floyd. I think that many people are now turning to Malcolm because they realize that Malcolm had a profound reaction to these horrific injustices that continue to occur even today.
GAYLE KING: All right, Ilyasa Shabazz, still there are so many questions that need to be answered. And I hope that you get them. Ben Crump, thank you, thank you, thank you for bringing this letter to light.