Malcolm X was assassinated fifty years ago, on February 21, 1965. Three years later, Martin Luther King, Jr. was also assassinated (April 4, 1968). These murders marked an escalation in the U.S. Government’s war against the Civil Rights Movement.
In the 1960s, Roland Sheppard regularly attended Malcolm X’s meetings in Harlem. Between 1964 and 1965, he was in charge of security when Malcolm X spoke at the Militant Labor Forum in New York City. He is one of the few remaining people who personally witnessed the assassination of Malcolm X in the Audubon Ballroom.
A life-long socialist, Sheppard was active in the Civil Rights Movement, the movement against the U.S. war in Vietnam, the Black Liberation Movement, the struggle for women’s liberation, for union rights, for workers democracy, and for socialism. He worked for 31 years as a union painter until his 1994 election as an official for Painters Local 4 in San Francisco.
Sheppard is often invited to speak about his experiences. One time, when he was addressing an inner-city history class, he was astonished to find that the class textbook contained only two pages on the Civil Rights Movement.
The students had a lot of questions after Sheppard’s presentation, and many stayed after school to continue the discussion. They were hungry for knowledge about their history.
Sheppard wrote this pamphlet to feed that hunger and to inspire the next generation of Freedom Fighters.