John Ali might be one of the most controversial and elusive figures to emerge from the Elijah Muhammad era of the Nation of Islam (NOI). He was the former national secretary of the NOI, making him one of the organization’s most powerful members. But was he also a U.S. Government operative who infiltrated the NOI in the ’60s? Many believe so and have pointed to evidence that indicates this.
Here are 15 things to know about the powerful alleged U.S. government operative inside the NOI in the ’60s.
Ali was the one who announced to the media that Malcolm X had been suspended by Elijah Muhammad in late 1963. Malcolm X asserted that the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was a case of the “chickens coming home to roost.” Muhammad was upset with Malcolm for saying this.
“Malcolm X did not speak for the Muslims when he made comments about the death of the president, John F. Kennedy. He was speaking for himself…Minister Malcolm has been suspended from public speaking, for the time being, Ali said during a press conference.
It has been reported that Ali, who was known to be very secretive and reclusive, was the architect of the assassination of Malcolm X. A year before Malcolm was killed in 1965, during an appearance on Chicago’s WVON radio show called “Hotline” in 1964, Ali publicly declared that the Nation of Islam was planning to murder Malcolm X, according to the Neromaximus blog.
According to well-known journalist Louis E. Lomax, Ali had ties to the FBI. Lomax, who worked at Afro-American and the Chicago Defender newspapers before becoming the first African-American television journalist when he joined New York’s WNTA-TV in 1958, investigated Malcolm X’s assassination.
He believed that Malcolm X was betrayed by a former friend [John Ali] who reportedly had ties to the intelligence community. In fact, in 1968, Lomax called Ali “Judas,” according to the book “The Judas Factor: The Plot to Kill Malcolm X” by Karl Evanzz. Evanzz was a staff writer for The Washington Post. He wrote “The Judas Factor’ in 1992.
COINTELPRO (1956- unknown) was a covert and illegal program conducted by the FBI aimed at surveilling, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting domestic American political organizations. Black organizations and Black leaders seemed to be the main focus of COINTELPRO. Was Ali part of COINTELPRO? Quite possibly, some say.
“So COINTELPRO is launched in 1956. John Ali joins The Nation allegedly in 1957, reportedly in 1957. Another date that’s out there is 1954. So, if we call John Ali joining The Nation between 1954 and 1957 okay. COINTELPRO launches officially in 1956, so around the time that COINTELPRO launches, and this is the entity that was set up within the FBI to break the back of any organization that was looking to liberate Black people or organizations who the United States government thought of as a threat. And also communists,” Martin said during the podcast.
It has since been revealed that Malcolm X was one of the targets of the infamous spy program.
“So, COINTELPRO, the type of stuff that they would do is of course, spy on Dr. King, spy on Malcolm X, spy on Elijah Muhammad, track their movements, try to understand what’s going on. Try to infiltrate the group. And so this is not some type of conspiracy theory. Of course the FBI has released a lot of documents related to the COINTELPRO activity,” noted Martin.
Martin continued on the possible Ali connection to COINTELPRO.
“So John Ali joins the NOI between 1954 and 1957. COINTELPRO launches in 1956.”
Ali replaced Ernest T. 2X McGhee as National Secretary of the NOI in Chicago Headquarters in 1958. He was next in power to Minister Muhammad and Supreme Captain of the Fruit of Islam Raymond Sharrieff.
Ali, who had been secretary of Temple Seven, went to Chicago on Malcolm X’s recommendation.
Ali oversaw all the financial interests of the NOI. He received and disbursed all the money that came into Chicago from NOI businesses and investments. This also included dues, fees, and donations from the membership in all Temples. Ali also ran the NOI bank, Roland Sheppard’s blog.
Was Ali the FBI’s man inside? In the GHOGH podcast, Martin refers back to “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.”
“In the autobiography of Malcolm X, this is what Malcolm X states,” said Martin. “Black agents were sent to infiltrate us. But the white man’s secret spy often proved, first of all, a Black man. I can’t see all of them. Of course, there’s no way to know. But some of them, after joining us and hearing, seeing and feeling the truth for every Black man, revealed their roles to us. Some resigned from the white man’s agency and came to work in the Nation of Islam.”
According to the 2008 book “To Kill A Black Man,” by Louis E. Lomax Lomax, there was an FBI memo that proves Ali was an informant.
The memo was from March 20, 1964. The memo was received by William C. Sullivan, who as the director of the FBI’s domestic intelligence operations was in charge of Ali. The memo was from the Seattle field office and read: “…the finances and other administrative chores of the movement are carried out in Chicago…This decision by Muhammad was made possible because John X [Ali], a former FBI agent and perhaps the best administrative mind in the movement, was shifted from New York to Chicago,” according to Roland Sheppard’s blog.
It seems that Ali might have been involved with the FBI long before becoming an NOI member. According to Lomax, sources told him that Ali worked for the FBI before joining the NOI. Lomax had been close friends with the publisher of the “New Crusader,” Balm Leavell. Leavell was one of the first individuals to discover that, high-level officials, in the NOI were FBI agents or informants, the Roland Sheppard blog reported.
There was another memo that showed Ali’s interaction with the FBI. In a memo that FBI headquarters sent to field offices in New York, Omaha, Philadelphia, and Chicago that advised them that the Philadelphia office was requested to determine whether, John Ali, had left Philadelphia and arrived in Chicago, according to the Roland Sheppard blog. Ali arrived in Chicago, where Malcolm was scheduled to appear on WVON’s “Hotline,” a radio program hosted by Wesley South, one of the pioneers of Black talk radio in Chicago.
Jamarlin Martin, the founder of Moguldom Nation, tweeted last year, government officials worked to silence Lomax, who was investigating the death of Malcolm X for a book. Some even believe the government might have been behind Lomax’s own death. Martin tweeted: “Dr. Louis Lomax was a journalist who died under mysterious circumstances. The brakes on his car failed. Before that, the FBI told him not to publish his findings that John Ali, Malcolm X’s influential enemy in the NOI, had worked as a FBI agent. Lomax published it anyway.”
In the 1960s Lomax received a letter from the FBI telling him not to print anything related to John Ali being a former FBI agent. “So Louis Lomax says he has sources within the FBI or a source within the FBI that has verified and told him that John Ali had some type of relationship with the FBI. He used to be an agent. Louis Lomax wants to print this and the FBI contacts Louis Lomax…Louis Lomax is a central figure in the case against John Al,” said Martin during the podcast.
In his GHOGH podcast episode on John Ali, Martin read a passage from “The Judas Factor: The Plot To Kill Malcolm X” by Karl Evanzz. On March 20, 1964, 12 days after Malcolm X officially broke with the NOI, the FBI was warned about the book.
The passage from Lomax’s book reads, “It is now clear that Elijah has delegated to Chicago responsibility for turning out the movements, publications, and overall policy statements. It is equally clear that the finances and other administrative chores of the movement are carried out in Chicago. This decision by Muhammad was made possible because John X Ali, a former FBI agent, and perhaps the best administrative mind in the movement, was shifted from New York to Chicago.”
When asked during an interview, John Ali does admit he had been interviewed by the FBI and even by the FBI director himself, J. Edgar Hoover, but was never hired. The interview can me heard in episode 66, “The Case Against John Ali,” of the podcast “GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin.” Ali was considered among the Black elite and this is why Ali said he had been approached.
“The federal government. And at that time, the FBI, they only hired lawyers or accountants for ages at that time and all were been hired personally by J. Edgar Hoover. So it was [Charles Sawyer who was secretary of commerce]. He arranged for me to have an interview with J. Edgar Hoover, which I was interviewed by him,” said Ali.
But Ali said he was not hired.
Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 66: Jamarlin Martin The Case Against John Ali: Jamarlin Martin goes solo to discuss Malcolm X and actual facts concerning the allegations that John Ali, the former national secretary of the Nation of Islam, was an operative of the FBI or U.S. intelligence agencies.
It turns out Ali is the uncle to famous hip-hop DJ, DJ Drama, according to an article in the now-defunct The Feminist Wire.
There was a power struggle over who would take control after the death of the Nation of Islam leader, Elijah Muhammad, whose bronchial asthma had been upgraded to acute in 1961.
The third son of Elijah, Herbert Muhammad, and Ali “were known to be hostile to Malcolm X. Malcolm’s move to Arizona allowed for a consolidation of anti-Malcolm sentiment,” according to the FBI’s file on Malcolm X, which was published by Taylor & Francis Online.
Khalil Islam spent 20 years in jail for shooting Malcolm X. Problem is, he says he didn’t do it. Whether true or not, Islam did offer insight about Ali. According to a 2007 New York magazine article entitled, “The journey of Khalil Islam. The man who didn’t shoot Malcolm X,” Islam claimed “that John Ali was an agent and he can’t believe that he was trying to kind of ride or die for The Nation. And when the investigators came in to look at this, he was trying to cover for what turned out to be an FBI agent. So this is what Khalil Islam, one of the alleged assassins of Malcolm X who did our time. This is what he says. ‘Khalil also pointed out the agents. Every other man was a cop, said Khalil, who was compromised at his trial by dutifully lying to protect John Ali, Elijah Muhammad’s national secretary who many came to believe was an FBI agent,” Moguldom Nation founder Jamarlin Martin said on his GHOGH podcast.
When Lomax was working on his book, “To Kill A Black Man,” the FBI was paying very close attention. And in fact, there was a memo circulated that Lomax needed to correct how he described Ali in the book.
“The memo wanted Lomax apprised of Ali’s ‘true status’ with the FBI, clearly conveying that there was indeed a relationship. The Memo didn’t refer to the allegation as a lie or fabrication, or any other word indicating that it was totally untrue. The memo only stated that the allegation that he was an FBI agent was ‘inaccurate’ or ‘incorrect,’ suggesting, that it was at least partially accurate or partially correct. Was the writer trying to suggest that Ali’s status with the FBI was that of an informant instead of a full-fledged agent?” questions the Roland Sheppard blog.
During the Black Power Movement, a number of activist organizations were infiltrated by the government. And according to the Roland Sheppard blog, the NOI was infiltrated a number of times.
“A number of policemen had infiltrated the NOI, only to reveal their roles, following their conversion. In that context, Ali’s past seemed of little moment,” the blog reported.
According to Martin, there was an FBI communication that claimed there were many agents and informants working to spy on the NOI.
According to the FBI file, the bureau had “multiple NOI informants. Multiple. And they say in 1968 when John Ali is arguably top three, top four in The Nation, the FBI’s memo states that they have somebody very, very high up in the rank,” said Martin during the podcast.
According to one of the assassins of Malcolm X and former NOI member Talmadge Hayer, Ali arrived in New York City and checked into the Americana Hotel on Feb. 19, 1965.
On Feb. 20, the day before Malcolm X’s assassination, Ali was seen in the Americana hotel’s restaurant “with a young Black man named Talmadge Hayer, a believer from the Paterson, New Jersey Temple, who had been recruited as an assassin in May 1964,” according to the Roland Sheppard blog.