Betty Shabazz was born Betty Sanders on May 28, 1936, in Detroit, Michigan, to an unwed, teenage mother, but was adopted at age 11 and enjoyed a middle-class upbringing. Shabazz initially attended Alabama's Tuskekee Institute, but unable to adjust to the racist environment that was the norm in the South, she moved to New York City to study nursing at Brooklyn State Hospital. She met her future husband Malcolm X at a mosque in 1956, joined the Nation of Islam while a student and married soon after graduation in 1958. On Feb. 21, 1965, while pregnant with twin girls, she and the couple's first four daughters witnessed Malcom X's assassination while he speaking at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem. Although she is best know as the widow of the famous Muslim and civil rights leader and her friendships with Myrlie Evers-Williams and Coretta Scott King, she became a leader in her own right and worked for many years at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn. Shabazz died on June 23, 1997, after suffering extensive burns on 80 percent of her body from a fire set by a troubled grandson. She was 61.
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