BOSTON (AP) — Archeologists in Boston are digging at a boyhood home of Malcolm X in an effort to uncover more about the slain black rights activist’s early life.
The two-week archaeological dig begins Tuesday in Boston’s historically black Roxbury neighborhood.
Organizers say they also hope to learn more about the property’s long history, which includes uses as a farm and possibly Native American settlement.
Members of Malcolm X’s family and community residents are expected to help Boston’s Archaeology Lab and researchers from the University of Massachusetts-Boston undertaking the excavation.
A ground-penetrating radar survey will be used this week to determine the best locations to dig and major excavation work is expected next week. The site will be open to the public throughout to observe the work.
The former Malcolm Little lived with his sister’s family at 72 Dale St. as a teenager in the 1940s.
The two-and-a-half story home, built in 1874, is currently owned by Rodnell Collins, a nephew of Malcolm X who hopes the survey can raise public awareness of his family’s history as he looks to convert the home into a residence for graduate student community volunteers.
The only surviving dwelling from the outspoken activist’s formative years in Boston was designated a city landmark in 1998.
“No physical move in my life has been more pivotal or profound in its repercussions,” Malcolm X 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.”
Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Little had bounced around from foster homes following his father’s death and his mother’s institutionalization for a nervous breakdown.
His older sister Ella Little-Collins eventually became his legal guardian and he lived with her family in a number of homes in Roxbury over the years, including the Dale Street home, which overlooks a grassy park now named in his honor.
But Little rebelled against the family’s relatively stable life and eventually landed in a Boston prison for burglary charges in his early 20s. There, he became a Nation of Islam follower. He adopted the “X” moniker to represent his family’s lost African ancestral name.
A charismatic speaker, Malcolm X quickly became the Detroit-founded Nation of Islam’s principal spokesman during its rapid rise in the 50s and 60s.
He helped found temples and mosques in black neighborhoods from Boston to Detroit, New York, Philadelphia and Atlanta promoting black nationalism and denouncing white American culture.
Malcolm X served as a contrast to more non-violence-minded civil rights contemporaries like Martin Luther King, Jr. But he eventually left the Nation of Islam, which the Southern Poverty Law Center considers a hate group.
He adopted a more conciliatory tone and converted to Sunni Islam before being gunned down by Nation of Islam adherents at a speech in New York City in 1965 at the age of 39.
Follow Philip Marcelo at twitter.com/philmarcelo. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/journalist/philip-marcelo