This Day in Black History: May 28, 1934

Betty Shabazz, civil rights activist and wife of Malcolm X, was born.

Posted: 05/28/2013 07:00 AM EDT

(Photo: Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images)

On May 28, 1934, Betty Shabazz was born in Detroit. She was a civil rights activist, educator and wife of Malcolm X.

Born Betty Dean Sanders, she converted to Islam in 1956 after attending services led by Malcolm X at a Nation of Islam Temple in Harlem. Like the civil rights icon, she changed her surname to "X" shortly after converting to Islam to honor her African ancestry. She married Malcolm X on January 14, 1958, in Michigan. The couple had six daughters together.

In 1964, Malcolm X announced that he and his family were leaving the Nation of Islam, and Betty assumed the surname Shabazz. After witnessing her husband's assassination in 1964, Betty exited public life to raise her children, but remained active in community activism and later held national speaking engagements in the 1970s and '80s. She also pursued education, earning a doctoral degree in higher education administration from the University of Massachusetts and went on to become an associate professor of health sciences at Medgar Evers College in New York.

Tragically, on June 1, 1997, her grandson, Malcolm, set a fire inside her apartment and Shabazz sustained serious burns over 80 percent of her body. She later died from her injuries on June 23, 1997. She was 63.

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