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Dig begins at Malcolm X's Roxbury home

Archaeologist are looking for artifacts of the legendary civil rights activist's home beginning this week.

Rodnell Collins, nephew of Malcolm X, plans to renovate the Roxbury home where theNicolaus Czarnecki/Metro

The former Roxbury home of famed civil rights activist Malcolm X is scheduled to be renovated, but before that happens archeologists will conduct a dig at the site for any hidden treasures related to his life.

The two-week search at 72 Dale St. — led by Joseph Bagley, the city’s archaeologist, and UMass Boston’s Fiske Center for Archaeological Research — kicked off Monday with a radar survey of the property. Next up are excavations there through April 8.

"This is an exciting opportunity for residents to unearth an important piece of Boston's history," Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said in a statement. "I thank Joe for leading this effort, and we look forward to the results."

After being born in Omaha, Nebraska, Malcolm X moved to the Boston home as a teenager in the early 1940s, joining his older half-sister Ella Little Collins.

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Malcolm, born Malcolm Little, was fascinated by city life in Dudley Square and developed a taste for jazz while working in and exploring Boston, according to accounts of his life in newspapers and historical records.

Run-ins with the law at age 20 led him to a six-year prison stay in Charlestown, Norfolk and Concord beginning in 1946, where he first came in contact with the Nation of Islam.

He traveled frequently after that, taking on leadership roles in New York, Chicago and other cities — eventually gaining status as among the most prominent black leaders of the era.

He died in 1965.

The house, built in 1874, was named a Boston Landmark in 1998. The archeological survey comes in the lead-up to planned renovations to the property, which is now owned by Malcolm X's nephew, Rodnell Collins.

Collins’ plan is to convert the home into housing for community-minded graduate students.

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The site will be open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the dig.

Many are expected to pitch in to help with the process, Bagley, the archaeologist, said in a statement.

"This is truly a community archaeology dig," Bagley said. "We have been working with the Collins family and the Roxbury community for months to plan and design this dig, and I'm excitedMalcolmX's family and the community will be digging their own history."

Before the Collins family moved in, the house was home to Irish families, according to the city’s Archaeology Program.

“If we are lucky, we may even find evidence from the 17th and 18th century former farmland and maybe even Native American artifacts,” a post on the program’s Facebook page reads.

DIG ALERT! We are excited to announce a new community archaeology dig that will start next week at the Malcolm X House,...

Posted by City of Boston Archaeology Program on Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Bagley also led a dig in a section of Boston Common last summer.

Follow the action for this and other searches for Boston historical treasures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Archaeology Survey gear check for our Malcolm X House dig, which starts tomorrow #DigBOS #DigX Am I missing anything?

Posted by City of Boston Archaeology Program on 
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