Associates of Malcolm X React to Convicted Killers' Exonerations

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Two family friends of the late Malcolm X are reacting to the exonerations of two men convicted of the human rights leader's assassination at a New York ballroom in 1965.

John Tehuti Hughes was in many ways the surrogate son of Dr. Earl Grant, the top advisor, photographer and close friend to Malcolm X. Grant passed away just a couple of years ago but Hughes continues the work to correctly define the legacy of Malcolm X and promote human rights of the movement.

When asked if he was surprised that the two men, Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam would be exonerated, Hughes said, "My initial reaction is not one of shock."

Here's more from Hughes' conversation with NBC 7 anchor Mark Mullen.

"It's pretty well known in our community that [Aziz and Islam] really were patsies. They were not involved, in the minds of historians, at the time in the assassination, and certainly, my reaction would be an understanding of the political environment in which the need for them to convict somebody at the time. And then, understanding the political environment of today."

Hughes also spoke about the driving forces behind Malcolm X's assassination.

"The final year of Brother Malcolm's life, there was a convergence of forces that wanted his silenced. It was the Nation of Islam which everyone talks about, but there was also international pressures because of his travels throughout Africa, and internationally organizing on a global scale that caught the attention of the CIA, as well as the FBI domestically, where he was galvanizing to take the United State government before the U.N, which would have been a huge embarrassment," Hughes said.

Hughes said the middle of the 20th century was much different than today in terms of organizing and campaigning for civil and social change.

"It's really amazing with the tools that are available today, such as social media and how quickly information -- it's really affected news in general -- but as quickly as that information is disseminated now. But in the 50s and the 60s, just the courage that it took to get their message out of protest, of the conditions, it's truly amazing. You really understand the power and the majesty of the dedicated people to the struggle, and it's really an appreciative standpoint that I come from," he said.

Mullen also spoke with author, journalist and human rights advocate Pet Bailey, who was also a close associate of Malcolm X, about his reaction to the news and whether he's satisfied.

"I was not surprised. I did not regard it as being major news. I never thought for a second that those two guys were part of the assassination, and I found this out a couple days after the assassination when I spoke with one of the brothers who was very, very close to brother Malcolm, and he told me there was no way those two guys could have been in the ballroom, down in front like that, and nobody recognized them because they had also been with the Nation of Islam." Bailey said. "I never truly believed the story that was being put out there. So I think it's a thing where the United States will probably teach it as an example of how they do justice."

Bailey added the great shame of Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr., being silenced is that no American civil rights leader as influential has emerged since.

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