Nebraska invests $20 million in Malcolm X museum, honoring Black history icon

Malcolm X; a plaque at the site of Malcolm X's birth in Omaha, Nebraska

Malcolm X was an American Muslim minister and human rights leader who was a prominent force for Black empowerment during the Civil Rights Movement — and was tragically assassinated in 1965. 

On the back-end of Black History Month, Malcolm X’s birthplace is honoring his legacy, with a major investment in a new museum. 

This month, the state of Nebraska officially awarded a $20 million grant to go towards the development of a nearly 18-acre site in North Omaha.

Malcolm X
Photo by Herman Hiller/Library of Congress

Right now, the site is home to land, gardens, and a small former church, but following a multi-million dollar renovation, it will house a museum, cultural education center, a renovated amphitheater, community gardens, and specially commissioned artwork honoring the social justice legend.

It will also make way for an improved headquarters for the managers of the property: The Malcolm X Memorial Foundation

Malcolm X’s birthplace was recognized as a historical landmark by the state of Nebraska in 1984, years after the initial creation of the Foundation. Now, 40 years later, his legacy will get the prestige local activists have long aimed to foster.

JoAnna LeFlore-Ejike, the executive director of the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation
JoAnna LeFlore-Ejike. Photo courtesy of the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation

“I’m really looking forward to the growth we’re going to experience,” JoAnna LeFlore-Ejike, executive director of the Foundation, told 6 News WOWT. “Malcolm X’s name travels far beyond Nebraska, but it’s our responsibility to make sure people in our own backyard know who he is.”

LeFlore-Ejike said she envisions the space as a tourist destination, a cultural site, and an event space. The site is already a beloved location for many North Omahans, who often celebrate Juneteenth on the land and engage in community and political events in the existing education center.

The grant money for the museum was approved through legislation last year, alongside Malcolm X’s induction as the “first African American in the Nebraska Hall of Fame.” His place in the Hall of Fame is also an effort that took decades to accomplish, according to LeFlore-Ejike.

People stand and look at art inside the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation
The Foundation's existing education and community center. Photo courtesy of the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation

These milestones are exciting and gratifying for the Foundation, especially considering Malcolm X’s history in the state, in which his family was forced to relocate after ongoing threats of violence from white supremacists in his youth. 

Other local leaders continue to work to honor his legacy in its totality. State Senator Terrell McKinney has re-introduced a bill that would require Nebraska to observe Malcolm X Day on May 19 — the date of the minister’s birth. 

So far, only the states of Illinois and Missouri — and the cities of Berkeley and Oakland — formally recognize the holiday.

While the work is still in progress, Black Nebraskans continue to show up in the ongoing mission to preserve and build upon the legacy of Malcolm X.

“Malcolm X has reached his point of history where his recognition is due,” Preston Love Jr., a North Omaha historian and Black Studies professor, testified in support of Malcolm X Day in February 2023.

“We have somewhat of a cosmic and divine responsibility to recognize him as a state.”

Header images courtesy of the Library of Congress and Ammodramus (CC BY 1.0)

Article Details

February 27, 2024 1:38 PM
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