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Malcolm X’s Adolescent Home in Roxbury Added To National Register

March 6, 2021

Malcolm X’s adolescent home in Roxbury has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The Massachusetts Secretary of State, William Galvin, made the announcement of the designation, The Salem News reported Thursday, March 4.

The nomination was presented to the Massachusetts Historical Commission in June 2020. The house has been vacant and in poor condition for years, according to the commission.

Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little in Nebraska in 1925, and later lived with his family in Wisconsin and Michigan. He was 6 when his father died. After his mother was hospitalized, he came as a teen-ager to Boston to live with his adult sister.

The home is at 72 Dale Street in Roxbury, an Italianate-style house built about 1865, according to the minutes of the state Historical Commission meeting.

“He lived here sporadically between 1941 and 1944, using rooms on the third floor that Ella fixed up for him, making changes that remain today, such as the bookshelves. Malcolm later said that ‘no physical move in my life has been more pivotal or profound in its repercussions,’ and the house and his relationship with his sister Ella remained a touchstone and focus of his life for many years,” the state Historical Commission meeting minutes state.

As a young man Malcolm was sent to prison for burglary. While in prison, he joined the Nation of Islam. He swore off crime. He also gave up his surname, on the theory that it was the name of the white owner of his slave forbears, and started calling himself Malcolm X.

He came to prominence during the 1950s as an outspoken Nation of Islam minister advocating black supremacy, racial segregation, and an eventual return of black Americans to Africa. He called whites “devils.” He also dismissed Martin Luther King Jr.’s call for nonviolence. He commented favorably on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

In March 1964, Malcolm announced a break with the Nation of Islam, in part over its founder’s illicit sexual affairs. He also came to disagree with some of the views of its founder.

Malcolm became a Sunni Muslim and made a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Seeing Muslims of various races – including whites – softened his views on race, and after he came home he stopped calling for the separation of whites and blacks and sought to make common cause with the black civil rights movement. He continued to advocate for what he called black nationalism, by which he meant black self-determination.

According to the web site MalcomX.com:

 

The trip proved life altering. For the first time, Malcolm shared his thoughts and beliefs with different cultures, and found the response to be overwhelmingly positive. When he returned, Malcolm said he had met “blonde-haired, blued-eyed men I could call my brothers.” He returned to the United States with a new outlook on integration and a new hope for the future. This time when Malcolm spoke, instead of just preaching to African-Americans, he had a message for all races.

 

Malcolm’s break with the Nation of Islam led to tensions. Malcolm was assassinated in February 1965 while giving a speech in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. Three Nation of Islam members were convicted of killing him.

In recent years the home in Roxbury has been the subject of archaeological digs by city officials, who have uncovered artifacts of the former farm homestead of the late 1700s and early 1800s as well as fragments of materials from the time Malcolm’s older sister lived there.

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