February, 21 1965: Malcolm Little, known to the world as Malcolm X, is shot dead at a meeting in New York City. The black civil rights leader was preparing to give a speech to the Organization of Afro-American Unity when a man shouted out that he was being robbed. As Malcolm X and his bodyguards went to calm the situation three men shot him a total of 21 times.
One man was caught and beaten by the audience, while witnesses also identified two others. The three men, Talmadge Hayer, Norman Butler and Thomas Johnson, were all members of the Nation of Islam black supremacist organisation that Malcolm X had left one year earlier; he had wanted to defend not only civil but also human rights and take his activism to the United Nations. They were convicted of murder but always maintained their innocence.
Conspiracy theories have multiplied in the years since the assassination: with people accusing drug dealers, the New York Police Department, the FBI or the CIA.
Also on February 21: Marx and Engels publish their Communist Manifesto (1848); the world’s first ever telephone book is issued in Connecticut, USA (1878); Steve Fossett becomes the first man to cross the Pacific in a balloon (1995).
Born on February 21: W.H. Auden (1907), Robert Mugabe (1924), Nina Simone (1933), Alan Rickman (1946), Victor Sokolov (1947), Kelsey Grammer (1955), Mary Chapin Carpenter (1958), James Dean Bradfield (1969).