Did A Black Undercover NYPD Detective Unwittingly Aid Malcolm X’s Assassination?Historians in the News
tags: NYPD, assassinations, Malcolm X
On Feb. 20, Reginald Wood Jr., a bespectacled, balding man in a dark suit and striped tie, walked across the wooden stage to the podium at the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center in Manhattan.
The place and timing were weighty with symbolism. The center had been built on the former site of the Audubon Ballroom, where Malcolm X was assassinated 56 years ago that very weekend. Wood was also speaking on the eve of the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd last May. A heightened suspicion of law enforcement swirled in the air, just as it did after Malcolm was murdered.
Ben Crump, the celebrity civil rights lawyer who represents the family of George Floyd, sat with Malcolm X’s three daughters on the stage as Reggie Wood waved a letter and an envelope sheathed in plastic from the podium. A colorful mural of a towering Malcolm loomed in the background.
The letter, Wood said, had been written by his father’s first cousin, Raymond A. Wood. A Black undercover detective with the New York Police Department in the 1960s, Ray infiltrated civil rights groups to arrest and discredit their leaders.
“This letter,” Reggie said somberly, “helps me to understand the pain and guilt that Ray felt over the last 55 years.”
Then he read aloud from the one-page typewritten document.
“I participated in actions that in hindsight were deplorable and detrimental to the advancement of my own black people,” Ray Wood allegedly wrote on Jan. 25, 2011.
His supervisors at the NYPD, the letter said, involved him in a plot to bomb the Statue of Liberty that led to the arrests of two key members of Malcolm X’s security team — just days before Malcolm was gunned down on the ballroom stage by three members of the Nation of Islam.
Ray, according to his cousin, had asked that the letter not be made public until after his death, which finally came Nov. 24 at age 87.
Ray’s seemingly regretful words from the grave, amplified by Crump’s endorsement, made immediate waves. Reggie appeared in a flurry of broadcasts; news stories multiplied.
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