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A house of Malcolm X added to endangered list

Preservationists hope to repair Roxbury site

Malcolm X moved into this house in Roxbury as a teenager in 1941. It was owned by his half-sister.

The boston globe

Malcolm X moved into this house in Roxbury as a teenager in 1941. It was owned by his half-sister.

The Roxbury home where Malcolm X lived as a young man in the 1940s, boarded up and neglected for years, may be on the verge of being saved.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation will announce on Wednesday it is adding the Dale Street property to its annual list of the most endangered historic sites in the United States.

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The designation offers preservationists and city officials hope they can raise enough money — and attention — to fix up the home and turn it into housing for graduate students of African-American studies or similar fields.

“It’s a national treasure,” said Alicia Leuba, a local official for the national trust.

“It helps to tell the story of Malcolm X’s time in Boston, and I think a lot of people are not aware of that period of his life.”

Malcolm X was a teenager, known then as Malcolm Little, when he moved into the home owned by his half-sister in 1941. Ella Little Collins was a pivotal figure in Malcolm X’s early life, and a civil rights activist herself. He lived with Collins and her husband on and off for six years before a 1947 larceny charge landed him in prison, where he would begin a spiritual evolution that eventually propelled him to the forefront of the black nationalist movement and the Nation of Islam.

Boston officials will commemorate the trust’s designation by holding an event at the property Wednesday morning to kick off a fund-raising drive by local nonprofit Historic Boston Inc., which helps preserve noteworthy buildings by renovating them for contemporary uses. The goal is to raise around $750,000.

“Boston has some significant African-American history, from right here in Roxbury to the Black Heritage Trail, and I’m committed to preserving it and showcasing it to our residents and visitors,” Mayor Thomas M. Menino said. “Having the Malcolm X House recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation really highlights its historical value and the importance of preserving this building.”

Kathy Kottaridis, Historic Boston executive director, said the home is historically important because Malcolm X lived there during a crucial, formative period.

His stays in Roxbury were the first time in Malcolm X’s life that he lived in a predominantly black community and was first exposed to Islam. In his own writings, Malcolm X said the period in Roxbury set him on the road to a new life as an activist, according to a 1998 report prepared for the Boston Landmarks Commission.

“This is, so far as we know, the only extant house from the time before he went to jail, which was a definitive moment in his life,” Kottaridis said. “It was critical point where he came to terms with himself and saw the potential of the Nation of Islam and launched his civil rights career.”

In prison, Malcolm took college-level courses and received a certificate in theology. At his release, he returned to Detroit and immersed himself in the Nation of Islam, visiting Boston in 1954 to open a temple, where his half-sister operated an affiliated child care center, the landmarks report said.

Ella Little Collins made a fortune in South End real estate and, after Malcolm X’s assassination in 1965, used her money to fund awards and scholarships in his name. She died in 1996, and the home passed to her son, Rodnell Collins. He could not be reached for comment.

The house was vacant from 1972 until 1994, when family members began the work of repairing damage from decades of neglect. In 1998 the city designated it a Boston landmark.

Historic Boston is partnering with prominent Boston architect M. David Lee to assess the home’s condition and architectural history. Some features, such as asbestos shingling added in the 1950s, may have to be removed or replaced. Emergency repairs earlier this year sealed the leaky roof and addressed other immediate problems, buying time for more extensive work.

Dan Adams can be reached at dadams@globe.com and on Twitter at @DanielAdams86.
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