Benjamin Karim, 73; Muslim Minister and Author Was a Key Aide to Malcolm X

From a Times Staff Writer

Benjamin Karim, a Muslim minister and author who was a top assistant to black nationalist icon Malcolm X, died Tuesday after a fall in Richmond, Va. He was 73.

Karim, a native of Suffolk, Va., was working for a recording company in New York City in 1957 when he first heard Malcolm X speak.

The black nationalist spoke so compellingly about the history of slavery that Karim -- whose name was then Benjamin Goodman -- joined the Nation of Islam.

He adopted the austere uniform of the Nation of Islam -- a conservative black suit -- and stopped cursing, drinking and eating pork.

Confessing later that he "didn't even know that black people had a history," he heeded Malcolm X's commands to educate himself about African Americans and other cultures.

"He had us in a curriculum where we had to study all of the ancient civilizations -- Greeks, Egyptians, Romans. We had to read the London Times and the Peking Times," he recalled in a 1993 interview with the Syracuse Post-Standard.

For the next seven years, Karim served as one of Malcolm X's closest aides.

He adopted the name Benjamin 2X and stood in for the Nation of Islam leader at events around the country.

He also supervised an education program at the organization's temple in Harlem.

Karim stayed with Malcolm X when he broke from the Nation of Islam in 1964 and founded the Organization for Afro-American Unity. He also introduced Malcolm X at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem on Feb. 21, 1965, a fateful day.

Moments into the speech, which was to outline a more mainstream direction for activism, Malcolm X was assassinated by gunmen.

After Malcolm X's death, his assistant rejoined the Nation of Islam and took Karim as his last name.

Karim devoted decades to educating the public about the slain icon and his ideas, particularly his calls for self-reliance and education.

Karim was an advisor on Spike Lee's 1992 film "Malcolm X" and wrote "Remembering Malcolm," a book the Washington Post called "a resplendent tribute."

Karim is survived by his wife, Linda; three sons; two daughters; and 15 grandchildren.

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