The strain of single-handedly providing for a family during the Great Depression was too much for Malcolm’s mother, Louise. Mentally, she could not handle the pressure of raising a black family in a predominately white community in the 30s, so she began to lose her mental capability. In 1939, the State of Michigan deemed her incapable of raising her children when neighbors told welfare agents she was abusing her son. Malcolm was sent to live in the house of Mabel and Thornton Gohanna, a couple known for taking in troubled children. Malcolm had become a “troubled child”, as he began to steal from local stores to provide for his family and getting in trouble at school for acting up too many times (Malcolm X, Autobiography).
The house, owned by Adam Bielecki and rented by Albert T. and Mabel Gohanna, was located in southwest Lansing. Although this house was a part of Malcolm’s childhood, as he lived here (1010 William Street in Lansing) in 1939 from January until August, it was torn down and is the location of parking lots used by the GM car factory, next to Interstate 496 (LSJ New Lansing Stamping Plant, Aug 2014). The city of Lansing has become highly industrialized since the 1930s, building over the lower-end areas to allow for the car industry to flourish. Malcolm remains to be remembered through other landmarks, such as a State of Michigan Historical Marker and Malcolm X Street, which is a block over from the location of where Gohanna’s house once stood. He soon was relocated to the Swerlin house, a Michigan State Detention Home.
Malcolm’s family had faced adversity as one parent had died and one sent to a mental institution. Malcolm blamed “welfare, the courts, and Louise’s doctor for giving his family ‘the one-two-three punch’” (Burlingame, Malcom X: I Believe in the Brotherhood of Man, All Man). The chaos and traumatic insecurity of the events that Malcolm faced in his child did not cripple Malcolm, as it would most people. The great change in human history that Malcolm brought about was enabled due to his thriving nature through the incidents he faced, shaping his message.
[This post was updated in May 2017 by John Aerni-Flessner to give the address of the house, and its owner's names.]