The recent death of a former police officer of the New York City Policy Department has cast a new light on the historic assassination of Malcolm X, the trailblazing Black activist who was killed by shotgun and machine gun fire while delivering a speech at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City in 1965.
The reevaluation of Malcolm X's death was spurred by the a deathbed letter written by Ray Wood, who was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2011 and finally succumbed to the disease this past November, The Huffington Post reported.
The letter, written by Wood upon receiving his diagnosis in 2011 but never shared publicly by his family until recently, alleges the FBI, the NYPD and Wood himself all played a role in facilitating the successful assassination of Malcolm X, who solidified his place as a historic proponent of racial justice as the longtime vocal spokesman for the Nation of Islam.
Ray's cousin, Reggie Wood, delivered the details of Wood's confession publicly this past weekend. Over his shoulder were multiple prominent civil rights attorneys and the daughters of Malcolm X.
When introducing his deceased cousin's letter, Reggie Wood outlined the guilt Ray Wood carried for so many decades.
"This letter helps me to understand the pain and guilt that Ray felt for the last 55 years. He conspired to help the NYPD assassinate Malcolm X."
"On behalf of Ray, he wanted the world to know that he was deeply sorry."
In the letter, which Reggie Wood read aloud, Ray Wood outlined the pressure he felt to go along with law enforcement's decision to eliminate such a powerful pro-Black voice.
"[I] participated in actions that in hindsight were deplorable to the advancement of my own Black people."
"[I adhered] under duress and fear that if I did not follow the orders of my handlers, I could face detrimental consequences. Presently I am aging with failing health."
As for Wood's specific involvement in the plot, his letter explained the NYPD instructed him to plot a bombing of the Statue of Liberty with key members of Malcolm X's security team.
"It was my assignment to draw the two men into a felonious federal crime so that they could be arrested by the FBI and kept away from managing Malcolm X's Audubon Ballroom door security."
Wood also apologized to the family and memory of Thomas Johnson, who was arrested for murder in connection to the killing of Malcolm X, and maintained his innocence until his death.
"On February 21, 1965, I was ordered to be at the Audubon Ballroom, where I was identified by witnesses while leaving the scene."
"Thomas Johnson was later arrested and wrongfully convicted to protect my cover and the secrets of the FBI and the NYPD."
Wood also outlined the specific pressure he was under, claiming the FBI and NYPD threatened him with "pending alcohol trafficking charges ... if [he] did not follow" orders.
Both Reggie Wood and civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who has represented the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin and others, spoke about the contemporary relevance of Wood's revelations.
Crump stated succinctly:
"Even though this is an astonishing revelation from the past."
"I'll remind you: The past is prologue. Malcolm X is Black Lives Matter."
A news about Wood's letter spread, people were glad to see some proof, but hardly surprised.
@Reuters https://t.co/rI95X0yIrY— ✯ Andro ✯ (@✯ Andro ✯)1613947119.0
@Reuters @chenweihua So many times we see things once thought as "conspiracy theories" come out decades later as ab… https://t.co/MpWjwmCufa— Detroit Life (@Detroit Life)1613944277.0
@Reuters That was never in doubt 🤷🏽♂️— AMMadelle (@AMMadelle)1613941607.0
@Reuters @JordanChariton Alleged? When does it become an actual fact? I mean some 50 years later and were not sure?… https://t.co/1WFkKapjMF— Ben White (@Ben White)1614000274.0
So although Ray Wood was forced to carry the heaviness of guilt and the secret he kept so close for so many years, he was able to get the truth of injustice out.
And he did so at a time when more people seem to be listening than ever.