Malcolm X Slept Here

 

Declassified FBI document

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quite a few famous people have lived in Philadelphia, and we generally like to brag about it. If the person is deemed important enough, the State of Pennsylvania puts up a dark blue historical marker on the spot as a stamp of official recognition. There are lacunae in our collective memory, though, places that are strangely blank, and Malcolm X’s brief residence in Philadelphia is one of them.

Malcolm moved to Philadelphia in early March of 1954, fresh off his success organizing Temple 11 in Boston. His brief was to energize Temple 12, located at 1643 North Bailey Street, now home to the Holy Ghost Crusade Church. The FBI already had Malcolm under surveillance, and noted his arrival in Philadelphia. One file states that he quickly registered as a longshoreman on the waterfront.

Malcolm shared a rented flat at 1522 North 26th Street with Joseph X Gravitt, according to these FBI documents and Manning Marable’s recent biography Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention. However Sean Patrick Griffin says Malcolm lived a few blocks away at 2516 West Nicholas Street in Black Brothers Inc., his account of Philadelphia’s Black Mafia. The 26th Street building has been demolished, but the Nicholas Street house still stands.

The Nation of Islam dispatched Malcolm to turn around New York City’s Temple 7 in June of 1954, but he remained minister of Temple 12 for another three months. He would return frequently to Philadelphia in the coming years, and made his final appearance on a public stage with Elijah Muhammed at a rally here in 1963.

Malcolm’s stay in Philadelphia was short and lacked drama, which is probably a good part of why it remains little known here. Yet Malcolm’s lingering reputation as a racist has something to do with it, too. The general public tends to take pride in less politically divisive figures–witness the dearth of tributes to Thomas Paine in Philadelphia, which was so memorably hammered home by the late Steven Wells in Philly Weekly. This ambivalence may be on its last legs, though. Malcolm’s reputation has risen spectacularly since his murder, and it is now politically acceptable to name public facilities after him, at least in some parts of the country. Black Oak Park in West Philadelphia was renamed after Malcolm 1995, and he’s depicted in a 2005 mural at Ridge Avenue and West Susquehanna Street. Perhaps it’s time to recognize him more specifically as an actor in the story of our city.


View Larger Map

Peter Woodall is the co-editor of Hidden City Daily. He is a graduate of the UC Berkeley School of Journalism, and a former newspaper reporter with the Biloxi Sun Herald and the Sacramento Bee. He worked as a producer for Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane and wrote a column about neighborhood bars for PhiladelphiaWeekly.com.



Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

Recent Posts
Bancroft Green Gives An Old Church New Purpose In Mt. Airy

Bancroft Green Gives An Old Church New Purpose In Mt. Airy

March 22, 2019  |  News

Contributor Virginia Lindak takes us out to Northwest Philadelphia where an eco-minded development firm is giving Mt. Airy Presbyterian Church a new lease on life > more

Unlisted Philadelphia: Banca Bozzelli

Unlisted Philadelphia: Banca Bozzelli

March 20, 2019  |  Unlisted Philadelphia

Ben Leech spotlights unique and significant buildings not listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places with his architectural illustration series, Unlisted Philadelphia. In this installment, a priceless Italian-American landmark in the heart of Bella Vista. > more

Real Estate Brochure For Vacant School Sounds Alarms in Germantown

Real Estate Brochure For Vacant School Sounds Alarms in Germantown

March 19, 2019  |  News

Neighbors rally around Germantown High School after a real estate listing revealed potential redevelopment plans. Emily Birdy Busch has the news > more

Piecing Together The Lost History Of Wirt & Knox

Piecing Together The Lost History Of Wirt & Knox

March 14, 2019  |  Vantage

Rob Masciantonio tracks down the elusive origins of an abandoned factory in Strawberry Mansion > more

Interior Of 30th Street Station To Be Considered For Historic Designation

Interior Of 30th Street Station To Be Considered For Historic Designation

March 11, 2019  |  News

Starr Herr-Cardillo has this roundup of local register nominations on the agenda at the March meeting of the Philadelphia Historical Commission's Designation Committee > more

Op-Ed: Streamlining The City's Preservation Procedures Would Benefit All

Op-Ed: Streamlining The City’s Preservation Procedures Would Benefit All

March 8, 2019  |  Soapbox

In this opinion piece Kenny Grono shares his perspective as a general contractor and remodeling specialist with a few ideas on how the City can untangle the red tape that undermines historic preservation > more