In memory of Sharon Poole
© 2017, Karl Evanzz
In the spring of 2010, Columbia University professor Manning Marable had his associates call a number of researchers and historians versed in the history of the Nation of Islam. He was finishing a biography of Malcolm X and hoped to corroborate a number of sensationalistic allegations, all of them potentially libelous.
The associates mentioned the names of people who were once friends and confidantes of Malcolm X, the visionary activist assassinated in Harlem on February 21, 1965. One of the more spurious claims involved an eighteen-year-old girl named Sharon Poole.
Poole was a former member of the Nation of Islam who was renamed Sharon 6X Shabazz in the mid-1960s. When Malcolm X left the group in March 1964, Poole quite to join his new group, Muslim Mosque, Inc. Her basic assignment was to keep a log of news reports about Malcolm’s activities, particularly as they related to his petition to bring the United States before the United Nations for violating the human rights of African Americans.
Malcolm X was a father figure to Sharon, and he treated her like she was his own daughter, according to former members. Contrary to claims by ignorant journalists, Malcolm X treated women with as much respect as he did men. Women held top offices in both Muslim Mosque Inc., and the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU).
Poole was among the nearly 300 people who gathered on February 21 around three o’clock in the Audubon Ballroom to hear Malcolm X speak. Sitting next to her was an old family friend, Agurs Linward Cathcart. Cathcart was like a beloved uncle to Poole. Her father had been the same to Cathcart, and now he was returning the blessing.
Although Cathcart was an NOI stalwart, he and Poole had remained friends.
When Malcolm X was gunned down minutes later, Poole rushed to the stage to assist his wife Betty (a registered nurse) and others trying to save his life. She is the young black woman opposite Betty and wearing eyeglasses in this photo taken by Earl Grant as Malcolm lay dying on stage.
During the melee, Poole saw a dark-complexioned black man shoot Malcolm X and then turn his weapon toward the crowd and shoot over people’s heads to scare them away. She immediately recognized the man, who wore a dark brown suit under his tweed overcoat, as an official at Mosque Number Seven in Harlem, where she was a member when Malcolm was still its minister.
She was in shock as she left the Audubon alone that afternoon. A TV reporter approached her as she exited and asked her what she had witnessed:
She also told a New York Times reporter what she saw:
The reporter foolishly mentioned her address in the article, making her a potential target for the assassins who escaped the Audubon. Only one of the five, Thomas Hagan, was captured at the scene by audience members. Unlike every other Sunday rally held by Malcolm X, police were nowhere to be found that afternoon.
Another eyewitness to Malcolm’s assassination was Yuri Kochiyama, a nurse and the first Asian American member of the OAAU. Fearful of being identified and marked for death, Kochiyama refused to give her name to the reporter. She too said that one of the men shooting Malcolm wore a tweed coat:
A woman who was wearing a green scarf and a black felt hat with little floral buds, and who would identify herself only as a registered nurse, said she had seen ``two men rushing toward the stage and firing from underneath their coats.'' One, she said, wore a tweed coat.
Rushed to the Stage
``I rushed to the stage even while the firing was going on,'' she said. ``I don't know how I got on the stage, but I threw myself down on who I thought was Malcolm but it wasn't. I was willing to die for the man. I would have taken the bullets myself. Then I saw Malcolm, and the firing had stopped, and I tried to give him artificial respiration.
Both Poole and Kochiyama later identified the shooter as Norman 3X Butler, an official at the Harlem mosque. Although Butler denied involvement, he was captured on film by a TV camera on the scene. These are still images of Butler outside the Audubon and under arrest a few days later.
At the time of the assassination, Poole was romantically involved with Benjamin Goodman, a chief assistant to Malcolm X, who was unaware of their relationship. Unbeknownst to Malcolm, who was too busy traveling to garner support for his UN petition, Goodman had separated from his wife and had begun dating Poole.
Although Malcolm was not privy to the relationship, another chief assistant, James 67X Warden, was fully aware of it. He recognized the potential embarrassment to Malcolm’s movement if Goodman’s relationship with the teenager became public at the very time that Malcolm was due in a Los Angeles courtroom to testify against Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam, for impregnating over a half-dozen of his own teenage secretaries. Warden was overheard yelling at Malcolm X about the issue, demanding that Goodman be expelled. But Goodman and Malcolm were close and the latter was reluctant to expel him, so he delayed his decision pending a discussion with Goodman after the February 21 meeting.
A major problem arose between Poole and Goodman because when he was interviewed by detectives about what he saw at the Audubon, Goodman insisted that Norman Butler could not possibly have been there. Poole disagreed, and for good reason: she was crouching on the floor bearing witness to the execution of a man she idolized.
Goodman, on the other hand, had quickly gone backstage after introducing Malcolm X and did not see anything.
Ironically, Goodman signed an affidavit in 1978 insisting that Butler was not there. This was another betrayal of Poole by him and clearly must have raised questions in her mind about Goodman’s loyalties.
But the reason for his denial was simple: Goodman was ashamed to admit that he failed to survey the crowd that day for potential enemies of Malcolm X. He had failed his obligations to his leader.
In his 1993 memoir, Goodman makes no mention of his affair with Poole, even though he had fathered her first child, Khadija, in April 1966.
Poole was devastated by Malcolm’s murder. For many years afterwards, she would visit his gravesite on February 21 and sit there alone except for the company of a bottle of liquor. She stayed until she was inebriated, and then left.
She ended up homeless. Cathcart and his wife gave her a place to stay. She was their upstairs tenant in a building they owned when Marable’s book was published. Although Cathcart threatened to sue Viking and Marable, the truth is that he knew that neither he nor Sharon stood a chance of winning without spending tens of thousands of dollars fighting in court.
Poole was depressed about the allegations but felt that God would, in His own due time, deal with Marable and others involved in spreading vicious lies about her. While she waited divine retribution, Marable’s lies spread throughout the world.
One of the first news outlets to help spread the lies was TheRoot.com, a web site then run by a pompous little black man named Henry Louis Gates Jr., or “Skip” to his friends because one of his legs is shorter that the other, giving him the appearance of skipping when he walks.
On June 10, 2011, former Washington Post reporter Natalie Hopkinson (TheRoot.com was a subsidiary of the Post at the time), wrote the following:
Malcolm, for his part, was likely spending his final night at a hotel with his 18-year-old secretary and alleged mistress, according to Marable. At the time, the woman, Sharon 6X, was living with Linward X Cathcart. Both had connections to members of the NOI mosque in Newark, N.J., who hatched the assassination plot. Both sat in the front row at the ballroom the day he was murdered . . .
But beyond that, many of Marable's other revelations about Malcolm's life paint a striking picture of his marriage and attitudes toward women in general.
Like other journalists, Hopkinson never raised any questions about the accuracy of Marable’s book, even though I had written a long review two months earlier raising doubts not only about his sources but about its multitude of spurious allegations.
Moreover, Hopkinson’s article, dealing with Malcolm’s alleged hatred of woman, did not quote a single woman who knew Malcolm X. She jumped from one ridiculous allegation to another, all of them by Marable. So much for unbiased reporting.
Hopkinson's boss was one of the principle endorsers of Marable’s book.
He also mentored Zaheer Ali, a lead assistant on Marable’s book. Interestingly enough, Ali has since removed his reference to Gates from the biography on his web site.
The biography read this way on the day Reinvention was published:
Under the direction of Dr. Manning Marable, he served as project manager and senior researcher of the Malcolm X Project (MXP) at Columbia University, a multi-year research initiative on the life and legacy of Malcolm X. As project manager, he served as associate editor of an online annotated multimedia version of The Autobiography of Malcolm X, developed by MXP and the Columbia University Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CCNMTL) (2004), and was a lead researcher for Dr. Marable's Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention (2011), a comprehensive biography on Malcolm X.
He received his Bachelor of Arts degree with a concentration in Afro-American studies from Harvard University, where he was a Mellon Undergraduate Fellow under faculty advisors Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Catherine Clinton. During that time, he also served as a research fellow for the "Pluralism Project: World Religions in America," a multi-year research initiative under the direction of Harvard religion professor Diana Eck, for which he researched the history and diversity of African-American Muslim communities in New York City.
That’s the way the publishing business operates: cronyism and nepotism rule. If you don’t play by the rules, you get locked out. So I knew that TheRoot.com would not publish my highly unflattering review of Marable’s book.
I knew because some people can’t handle the truth.
Poole’s health deteriorated after the lies spread, and she died a couple of years afterward, by which time Cathcart had abandoned his attempt to sue for libel. Like others, she essentially died of a broken heart, her reputation ruined by a callous author who knew that he lied about the nature of her association with Malcolm and Cathcart.
I know Marable knew because I was approached by him and his researchers on the very topic. In May 2010, two of them told me what Marable intended to claim about Poole. I told him them it was libelous because Poole was never involved with Malcolm but with Goodman. I showed them evidence that Goodman had fathered Sharon’s child.
Lance Shabazz, a member of the Nation of Islam since birth (but no more) and a recognized historian on the sect, recounts a nearly identical experience:
Manning Marable and his researchers contacted me about Sister Sharon X Poole. She served as a secretary for Malcolm X and James 67X Shabazz after Malcolm left the Nation of Islam. They first stated that her baby died in the hospital in the early ‘60s. I told them I didn’t know anything about that. I received another call stating she was pregnant with Malcolm’s baby when he was murdered.
I called her and was told the child was born in April of 1966. Malcolm was murdered in February of 1965. Benjamin 2X Goodman was the father of her daughter. This did not stop these bastards. They published trash portraying Malcolm and Linward and Sharon as a threesome.
These lies are painful not only to the family of Malcolm X but to Linward’s wife and children as well. Sister Sharon X Poole was not well, and the news, I believe, led to her untimely death.
There is nothing we can do now to make up for the pain Sharon Poole endured. Her death is on the hands of those who libeled her.
However, a white-owned movie company currently has plans to use Marable’s book of lies as the basis for a TV series about the life and death of Malcolm X. Since they have passed up Malcolm’s autobiography in favor of Marable’s book, which also contains a completely fabricated relationship between Malcolm and an old white man, we know what their intentions are.
They are about character assassination, nothing more. They even hired a “Negro” writer who specializes in writing smutty scripts with stereotypical “Negro” characters.
As defenders not only of Malcolm’s legacy but the truth in general, we have an obligation to speak out now. This has to be a grassroots effort because black journalists have proven themselves both incompetent and indifferent to their obligation to tell the truth.
Moreover, the pseudo-intellectuals upon whom one would normally rely to defend Malcolm X’s legacy have already gone on record as supporting Marable. So it’s up to the people.