Malikah Shabazz, one of Malcolm X‘s youngest daughters, has died in New York City the latest in a series of untimely tragedies afflicting the civil rights icon’s family. The 56-year-old was found dead in her Brooklyn apartment on Monday after her daughter made the discovery, according to law enforcement officials.
The NYPD immediately ruled out foul play, CBS News reported. However, there was no official cause of death immediately reported.
Shabazz’s death came just days after the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office officially exonerated two men who were convicted of assassinating Malcolm X. She and her five sisters have been vigilant over the past decades about trying to uncover the truth about their father’s killing while he was delivering a speech in Harlem in 1965.
There was an outpouring of condolences for Shabazz across social media, including a touching Twitter eulogy from Bernice King, daughter of the legendary Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Bernice King tweeted that she was “deeply saddened by the death” and brought attention to how Shabazz’s mother, Dr. Betty Shabazz, “was pregnant with Malikah and her twin sister, Malaak, when Brother Malcolm was assassinated.”
Three of Malikah’s five other sisters were in the Audubon Ballroom when their father was shot to death while delivering an address. Malikah and Malaak were born a few months afterward and named such to honor their father.
The family has seen its fair share of controversy since Malcolm X’s assassination.
The estate was being administered by Malikah’s sisters, Ilyasah and Malaak Shabazz, after their mother was killed in a New York apartment fire set by her grandson, Malcolm, in 1997. That was two years after Malcolm’s mother, Qubilah Shabazz, was charged with attempted murder for conspiring to kill Louis Farrakhan, who had admitted he played a role in Malcolm X’s assassination. (Farrakhan has also said explicitly that he “did not kill Malcolm X.”) Years later, Malcolm, Qubilah Shabazz’s son, was killed in 2013 after he was beaten to death in Mexico City.
Malikah was also not exempt from negative attention.
In 2002, she allegedly took some of Malcolm X’s unpublished speeches, letters and journals without permission and placed them in a storage facility. But when the storage bill never got paid, the items were put up for auction, forcing Malcolm X’s estate to pay $300,000, according to the lawyer for Ilyasah and Malaak Shabazz. The New York Times reported that the lawyer at the time “questioned Malikah Shabazz’s mental capacity and blamed her for losing potential licensing deals.”
In February of 2011, Malikah accused Ilyasah and Malaak — her twin — of irresponsibly administering their father’s estate and claimed they along with the former lawyer spent “estate money on themselves while allowing property and other estate assets to languish and a tax bill to skyrocket,” the New York Times reported at the time.
Weeks later, Malikah was arrested in North Carolina was charged with identity theft for allegedly stealing the identity of the widow of one of her father’s bodyguards and using it to run up more than $55,000 in credit card bills.
A court in New York first issued a warrant for Shabazz’s arrest in 2009, but she wasn’t taken into custody until two years later when social service workers visited her home in North Carolina to investigate an anonymous complaint that her daughter wasn’t attending school.
In 2017, Malikah and her 19-year-old daughter, Bettih Bahiyah Shabazz, were arrested in suburban Maryland for charges of animal cruelty charges and theft. They were arrested for traveling inside a moving truck that had been reported stolen and “contained seven dogs, locked in crates and covered in their own waste,” including one that “had injuries to its face, neck and eyes that required emergency care.”