Unpublished Black History

Credit Don Hogan Charles/The New York Times

Malcolm X’s Close Call in Queens

Malcolm X was sleeping when firebombs crashed through his living room windows shortly before 3 in the morning. Jolted awake by the explosions, he rushed his wife and four young daughters out into the cold before fire engulfed their modest brick house in East Elmhurst, Queens.
We published an article about the attack on Feb. 15, 1965, and paired it with a photograph taken by a news agency that captured Malcolm X stepping out of his car, in front of his house. What our readers did not know was that one of our own photographers, Don Hogan Charles, had walked through the house, shooting powerful pictures of the damage. 

This stark image of the shattered windows, singed walls and sooty debris, shown here for the first time, offers a glimpse of the private life of a man who spent much of his time in the public eye. Malcolm X gave speeches in Manhattan, Detroit and other cities around the country and overseas. But he came home to Queens. 

The two-bedroom house at 23-11 97th Street, which was owned by the Nation of Islam, had a small living room, a dining room, a bathroom, a kitchen and a former utility room, where Malcolm X’s 5-month-old daughter slept in a crib. Few of the family’s possessions survived the blaze. Malcolm X, who told our reporter that he had been receiving daily threats, escaped that firebombing unscathed. He was assassinated one week later. 

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