LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Malcolm X, the civil rights leader and one of the many African American icons honored during Black History Month, had deep roots in Lansing.

Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little in Nebraska and moved to Lansing at 2 years old with his family, Michigan State University Professor of African and World History John Aerni-Flessner said.

His father, Earl Little, moved them to a predominately white neighborhood. They weren’t there long.

“The Little family purchased a house up in the Westmont subdivision up by what’s today the airport off of Grand River Avenue,” Aerni-Flessner said. “The Little house burned to the ground. Most likely an arson attack by white supremacists.”

They moved to two other houses in the Lansing and East Lansing area. Soon after they moved to a house Earl Little built, the family was hit with a big loss.

“Unfortunately later that fall, (Earl Little) was found dead at the railroad tracks at Michigan Avenue and Detroit Avenue,” Aerni-Flessner said.

Malcolm X’s mother was eventually sent to a mental institution. He and his siblings were put in foster care. He moved out of Lansing after junior high and would go on to become a civil rights activist.

“Malcolm did this despite all of the obstacles, despite being African American in Lansing in the 1930s,” Aerni-Flessner said.

He even came back to give a speech at Michigan State University in 1963.

“The No. 1 domestic problem facing America is the race problem,” Malcolm X said at the time.

Aerni-Flessner said we still see today the situation that Malcolm X faced then.

“Some of the conditions that Malcolm wrote about and protested about are still with us,” Aerni-Flessner said.