fb-pixel Skip to main content

Former Malcolm X home in Roxbury added to National Register of Historic Places

In this 2016 file photo, signs called attention to the house in Roxbury where slain civil rights leader Malcolm X spent part of his teen years.
In this 2016 file photo, signs called attention to the house in Roxbury where slain civil rights leader Malcolm X spent part of his teen years.Bill Sikes/Associated Press

A Roxbury home where slain civil rights leader Malcolm X lived as a teenager was added last month to the National Register of Historic Places, a designation one preservation advocate said will help efforts to bring federal recognition to landmarks honoring people of color.

Greg Galer, executive director of the Boston Preservation Alliance, said the register now “woefully inadequately” reflects the history of Black and Indigenous people and people of color.

“It’s something that the preservation community is actively working to address,” Galer said in an interview. “The listing of the Malcolm X house . . . is a good step in the right direction, and hopefully the first of many additional sites that get listed.”

Advertisement



The designation should also help the city’s efforts to preserve Black history, he said.

“Every Bostonian should be able to walk around the city and see places preserved and recognized for their important history that speak to them,” he said.

The home at 72 Dale St. where young Malcolm Little went to live with his older sister, Elsa Little-Collins, was added to the National Register on Feb. 12, according to the National Park Service.

Little-Collins was herself a civil rights organizer who helped provide educational opportunities for Black students. Her son, Rodnell Collins, now owns the property and hopes to convert part of it into a home for graduate students in any field of study.

“It was the wish of my mother and any family member for anything we do around Malcolm that you don’t create any symbolism without substance,” Collins said in an interview on Friday. “It must be a functioning entity involved in education.”

In fulfillment of that mission, the site invited more than 1,000 students to learn about science during a two-week archaeology dig in 2016.

Advertisement



Rodnell Collins also hopes to open the 2½-story home for special events and public tours from late April through October. He intends to enlist the help of graduate student volunteers. The national listing opens up access to tax incentives and fundraising interest from private or corporate entities to help make that dream possible, Collins said.

The restoration project will cost around $7 million dollars, according to Collins.

Historic Boston Inc. worked with Collins to waterproof the roof and make other improvements from 2012 to 2014, executive director Kathy Kottaridis said.

The National Register designation could help provide much needed preservation funding, she said.

“A lot of work needs to be done there, and there will be a need for some substantial fund-raising to help make that a reality. To both stabilize, but also really make it a place to visit and one that you can have confidence will continue to survive,” she said.

The Massachusetts Historical Commission voted to nominate the home for inclusion on the National Register during its spring meeting last year, Galvin said in a statement Thursday.

“The Massachusetts Historical Commission is dedicated to preserving the Commonwealth’s rich historic, architectural, archaeological, and cultural resources,” said Galvin, who chairs the commission.“ I am pleased that the property has now been awarded the designation of appearing on the National Register.”

The young man who would become Malcolm X lived at the Roxbury home from 1941 to 1944, according to O’Malley, when he was about 16 to 19 years old. It is the only surviving structure associated with his formative years, O’Malley said.

Advertisement



Little-Collins bought the house in 1941 and lived there until 1964. The home was built in the 1870s, when Roxbury was considered a “streetcar suburb” of Boston, on the former site of a prosperous farm, O’Malley said.

After living in Roxbury, Malcolm Little went to prison for robbery from 1945 to 1952, a period when he joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name to Malcolm X to reject the surname given his family by white slaveholders.

After his release, Malcolm X became a leader in the Nation of Islam, serving as the Detroit-founded organization’s principal spokesman during its rapid rise in the 1950s and ’60s, establishing temples and mosques across the country.

He continued visiting his older sister at the Roxbury home, according to the City of Boston, which declared the home a city landmark in 1998.

“No physical move in my life has been more pivotal or profound in its repercussions,” he wrote in his autobiography about his time in Boston. “All praise is due to Allah that I went to Boston when I did. If I hadn’t, I’d probably still be a brainwashed black Christian.”

He later left the Nation of Islam and rejected its notions of racial separatism. He was fatally shot while giving a speech in 1965; three members of the Nation of Islam were later convicted in his killing.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this story.

Advertisement




Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.