Malcolm X’s Early Home in Boston Gets U.S. Historic Designation

The only remaining childhood home of Malcolm X, a two-and-a-half-story home in the Roxbury section of Boston where he lived as a teenager in the early 1940s, has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Malcolm’s sister Ella Little Collins purchased the house, at 72 Dale Street, in 1941, the year she became her brother’s legal guardian, the Massachusetts Historical Commission, which nominated the house for inclusion, noted in a meeting last year. After Ms. Collins invited him to live with her, Malcolm arrived in the city on a Greyhound bus from Michigan, just shy of his 16th birthday.

He lived at the home “sporadically,” from 1941 through 1944, according to the commission, “using rooms on the third floor that Ella fixed up for him, making changes that remain today, such as the bookshelves.”

Underscoring how pivotal these years were to him, the commission wrote, “At this house, the Littles may have had their first exposure to Islam through their neighbors, the Perrys.”

ImageA nephew of Malcolm X, Rodnell  Collins, carrying a picture of his uncle on March 29, 2016.
Credit…Bill Sikes/Associated Press

After 1944, Malcolm stopped living at the home “and spent much of the next 12 years in Massachusetts prisons after conviction on larceny charges,” the commission wrote.

While in prison, Malcolm converted to Islam, and in 1952, he changed his last name from Little to X, to stand for his unknown African name. He also joined the Nation of Islam and became one of its most visible and influential representatives, eventually moving to New York and settling with his wife and children in the East Elmhurst section of Queens.

In 1965, that house was badly damaged when it was firebombed. Malcolm escaped unharmed. A week later, he was shot to death in Manhattan.

Ms. Collins did not return to the home on Dale Street after the assassination, though it has been continuously owned by the Collins family, the commission noted. She died in 1996.

In 1998, the house, formally known as the Malcolm X-Ella Little Collins House, was designated a city landmark by the Boston Landmarks Commission. The house was officially added to the National Historic Register on Feb. 12. The inclusion was announced this week by the National Park Service.

Along with formal recognition from a national agency, inclusion on the national register has other benefits, such as allowing owners of those properties access to investment tax credits and qualifications for federal grants, according to the National Park Service, which administers the program.

Rodnell Collins, Ms. Collins’s son, said the family plans to house up to six graduate students on the first floor of the home. The upper parts of the side-hall-plan Italianate-style house, he said, will be used for tours and special events.

It was in the upper part of the home that a teenage Malcolm once resided, Mr. Collins recalled.

“My parents reconfigured the top floor for family, primarily Malcolm, so he can have his own private quarters,” Mr. Collins said in a telephone interview Thursday evening. It had a “kitchenette area,” and a “private bedroom,” which, Mr. Collins said, was “separate from the den that he could use.”

The house was a hub of family activity when Malcolm was there. It was, Mr. Collins said, “like a railroad station of family members always gathering and eating and talking.” His mother encouraged Malcolm to learn about Boston’s history in the American Revolution, he said, telling him to learn “what they went through in that struggle and you’ll understand what we have to do as a people here in America.”

Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *