Inkster home of Malcolm X gets on National Register of Historic Places

The former home of civil rights leader Malcolm X has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation announced Tuesday.

The announcement comes as the nation celebrates the annual observance of Black History Month in the United States and three weeks before the 57th anniversary of the assassination of the Black Muslim leader who joined the Harlem-based Nation of Islam in 1958.

The home at 4336 Williams St. in Inkster, shown on Sept. 16, 2021, is where Malcolm X lived in the early 1950s during his conversion to Islam. The home has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation announced Tuesday.

Born Malcolm Little, Malcolm X was shot and killed on Feb. 21, 1965, in New York City as he addressed his Organization of Afro-American Unity at the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights. A married father of six, he was 39. 

The home, located in the 4300 block of Williams Street in Inkster, is one of only a handful of places where Malcolm X lived. He was born in Nebraska and lived in the Lansing area as a child, attending Mason High School.

Malcolm X lived in the Inkster home in 1952 along with his brother Wilfred Little and his family when he left prison after serving time for burglary in Massachusetts.

It is at the Williams Street home where Malcolm X made a full transformation into the Islam faith.

Inkster resident Aaron Sims, who saved the home from the wrecking ball after it was for a time listed on the city's demolition list, said Monday the National Register of Historic Places designation is the latest step toward revitalizing the once-abandoned home into a museum highlighting the life of Malcolm X. 

The museum will be dedicated to the life and work of Malcolm X and run by Inkster-based nonprofit Project We Hope Dream and Believe, which is focused on educating and empowering young men and women.

Sims said his organization has purchased three lots, two next door and another across the street, where they plan to build a community center and a job training/youth tutorial center.

The renovation and plans for the museum recently received a $380,000 grant from the National Park Service African American Civil Rights program.

"We are working hard toward rehabilitating and renovating the Malcolm X house, with the goal of transforming the home into a museum that will showcase Malcolm’s life history, with special focus on his human and civil rights activism, as well as his relationship to the city of Inkster, which he referenced in one of his final speeches,” said Sims, who is executive director of Project We Hope, Dream & Believe.

A banner on the front of the house at 4336 Williams Street in Inkster on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021, where Malcolm X lived in the early 1950s during his conversion to Islam.

In September, Attallah Shabazz, Malcolm X's eldest daughter, praised the effort to preserve the history of her father and uncle, Wilfred Little, during comments to the State Historic Preservation Review Board.

Shabazz told the board that restoring the home will help to answer significant questions about the history of her father, his siblings and the period during which he lived in Inkster, believed to be from 1952-53 before he moved to New York City.

The nine board members voted unanimously to designate the home a historic site in Michigan and approved the nomination for the home to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Properties must be at least 50 years old to be and have a "significant" relationship to major events or trends in the history of a community, state or nation to be considered for listing in the National Register, according to state historic committee officials.

The property must also possess historic integrity as well.

“A key aspect of the National Register program is to document and honor places that are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history,” said Michigan’s State Historic Preservation Officer Mark Rodman. “People and places in Michigan played important roles in the Civil Rights movement of the mid-twentieth century. We are honored to join the city of Inkster in celebrating one of those roles with the listing of this home.”

Project We Hope Dream and Believe Founder and Executive Director Aaron Sims, left, and board member Dawon Lynn, both of Inkster, talk on Sept. 16, 2021 in what was the kitchen of the Inkster house where Malcolm X lived in the early 1950s during his conversion to Islam.

Wayne State University Professor and Project We Hope, Dream & Believe Project Manager Dr. Tareq A. Ramadan said they are working with Wayne State's Anthropology Department as part of the project, to "...conduct archaeological excavations around the home which, we hope, will provide further clues about what life was like in the neighborhood Malcolm lived in between 1952 and 1953,” he said. “Malcolm had a relationship with Wayne State too. In October of 1963, he gave a speech there in front of hundreds of students in the still-standing State Hall building, so it is befitting that the university and its students will be involved, again, today."

Sims said they hope to have the renovation completed and the museum open to the public by August of 2023.