A Look Inside Malcolm X’s New York City
By Sharelle Burt
Throughout history, prominent black leaders have come through New York City at some point. While each leader’s story is different, one thing remains the same. Each left stepping stones for us to build upon.
Malcolm X was one of those leaders. His unique background led him to become a dominant force during the civil rights era. Born in Omaha, Nebraska as Malcolm Little, his parents instilled in him early that his blackness was important. As a fan of Marcus Garvey, X’s father was the local leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, a black nationalist group founded by Garvey, and his mother was the secretary.
His father was killed when he was six-years-old and his mother was committed to a mental hospital after a nervous breakdown, causing X and his siblings to be separated in foster care. After dropping out of junior high school, X made his way to Harlem and left a permanent mark on this historic black neighborhood in 1943.
Since his horrific assassination on February 21, 1965, Harlem has embraced the impact X, and his family made while he was alive and after.
After finding his way to the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X was given the assignment of finding other chapters across the country. One of them was Temple No. 7 in Harlem. Originally, the temple opened in 1954 but was bombed in retaliation of X’s murder. Today it has been rebuilt for the third time, standing on 127th Street.
Although Malcolm lived by the famous term “by any means necessary,” his ways of going about certain things weren’t always met with aggression. In 1957, a huge crowd of protestors paraded in front of the 28th Police Precinct in Harlem after a member was denied medical attention following a beating from the police. Of course, Malcolm X was called to the police station, but instead of egging the crowd on, he used his words to diffuse the situation.
There were many times that X was called to a situation to give words of peace or to lead his people to a bigger solution. The year before his assassination, Malcolm went on a pilgrimage to Mecca, a journey that many of the Muslim faith take. It was trips like this that helped him to lead a coalition of activists and politicians who were fighting to get Harlem hospital workers better pay after they went on strike. The strike was successful, and Union 1199 is known as one of the most powerful unions in New York.
Through it all, Malcolm X made substantial contributions to the black community. His love for the people pushed productive moves and introduced new ideas. Through his struggle, he prevailed and never went unnoticed. Now, visitors and those who want to learn can see a permanent mark. A number of Malcolm X Boulevards can be seen throughout the city on Sixth Avenue, Lenox Avenue and another in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn.