El-Hajj Malik el Shabazz–the leader most commonly known as Malcolm X–was assassinated 50 years ago, on February 21, 1965.

Just one week prior–on Valentine’s Day at 2:46 a.m.–his Queens, N.Y., home had been struck by three Molotov cocktails as he and his family slept. Despite the firebombing, Shabazz flew to Detroit for an awards ceremony sponsored by the Afro-American Broadcasting and Recording Company. It was there that he talked about what his recent world travels had impressed upon him. Shabazz, who had been briefly sedated after the firebombing so he could get some rest, also explained how the press often casted black resistance as psychopathy. 

Shabazz returned to his home the following day to a media circus–a home the Nation of Islam, or NOI, had started eviction proceedings on the previous year, about a month after Shabazz broke from the religious movement to start his organization. On February 18, 1965, while his wife and children were already in hiding, the NOI evicted the family.  

Shabazz was murdered just three days later at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City.