Black History Moments
Smithsoniani Channel(TM) examines the life and death of the iconic Civil Rights activist in
THE LOST TAPES: MALCOLM X
Critically acclaimed series returns with Black History Month Special
NEW YORK — A historic voice in the 1960s civil rights movement, Malcolm X was and continues to be a fascinating yet controversial figure. During his life, he gave voice to the anger and frustration that African Americans experienced during the tumultuous 1950s and 60s in the United States, gaining a reputation for his fiery rhetoric and spellbinding speeches. THE LOST TAPES: MALCOLM X relives the pivotal years of this trailblazing activist using rarely seen footage and audio tapes, including never-before-seen footage of Nation of Islam rallies and recordings made at the Audubon Ballroom on the day of his assassination. THE LOST TAPES: MALCOLM X premieres Monday, Feb. 26 at 8 p.m. on Smithsonian Channel.
Malcolm X gained notoriety as a minister and spokesperson for the Nation of Islam and as a student of Elijah Muhammad, lobbying for the separation of African Americans from white society. His ideas were a departure from the teachings of other notable civil rights figures of the time, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As Elijah Muhammad began to distance the Nation of Islam from the civil rights struggle in the mid-1960s, Malcolm X grew frustrated and disillusioned with his teacher. Using never-before-seen footage of Malcolm at Nation of Islam events standing side-by-side with Elijah Muhammad, THE LOST TAPES: MALCOLM X highlights some of his most famous and controversial moments. Like other episodes in this critically acclaimed series, the program relies solely on media reports from the time – no interviews or re-enactments – allowing viewers to relive the power of Malcolm’s story as it unfolded. Tensions between Malcolm and the Nation of Islam eventually came to a head after John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. Malcolm violated Muhammad’s orders to stay quiet about the assassination and was banned from public speaking for 90 days, a turning point for both Malcolm and the Nation of Islam. Malcolm was forced out of the organization in February 1964, and within months of leaving he revealed to the media inappropriate behavior by his former leader. Asked if he feared repercussions, he said: “I probably am a dead man already.”
After one failed attempt on his life, Malcolm X was assassinated on February 21, 1965 by three gunmen who rushed the stage at the Audubon Theatre and Ballroom in Harlem, where he was preparing a speech before an audience of several hundred. THE LOST TAPES: MALCOLM X features rarely heard recordings taken amid the chaos in the aftermath of the shooting. At his funeral, Malcolm was eulogized by actor Ossie Davis, who said: “Malcolm was our manhood, our living Black manhood. … In honoring him, we honor the best in ourselves.”
THE LOST TAPES: MALCOLM X documents Malcolm’s changing philosophy during his tumultuous final years, and the moments that helped shape his legacy as one of the most important figures in American history.