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The 57th Commemoration of Malcolm X

Source: Anadolu Agency / Getty

After a long period where he was deemed too controversial for consideration, Malcolm X is now the first Black member to be inducted into Nebraska’s Hall of Fame.

The board of commissioners for the organization unanimously granted the honor to the late civil rights icon on Monday (Sept. 12th) after an initial 4-3 vote. The honor comes 18 years after his initial nomination in 2004. He would be passed over, with the committee at that time, nominating the late Senator Kenneth Wherry who was a controversial choice due to his isolationist beliefs and his obsession with rooting out suspected Communists and gay people from government in the 1940s and 1950s.

That selection would later be thrown out due to a committee violation. The former Nation of Islam spokesman and Pan-African activist was born in Omaha in 1925 before his family moved to Milwaukee the following year to flee Ku Klux Klan members who sought to kill his father, a Baptist preacher and advocate of the teachings of Marcus Garvey.

The induction makes Malcolm X the first Black member of the Hall of Fame, which currently consists of 26 Native Americans, 19 white men, and seven women. Each inductee is chosen for their contributions in “public affairs, or the arts, the sciences, the professions,” to society with high consideration given to “activities that have added to the welfare of society and to the reputation of Nebraska.”

Malcolm X was one of three finalists, along with educator and author Louise White and composer Howard Hanson. Each member receives a bronze bust which will reside in the state capitol. Commission chairman Ron Hull said that the next step is to raise $15,000 for the bust’s completion.

This will take place after a commission is formed for sculptor consideration, and then a call for artists. The official induction will take place in 2024.

The vote was received with great applause by a delegation of supporters which included members of the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation and former State Senator Ernie Chambers from Omaha. Chambers said to members of the press that it was “a monumental thing for a state as backward as Nebraska, as racist as Nebraska” to grant him induction.

Schmeeka Simpson, director of tours with the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation sees the honor as a chance for real restorative justice. “It’s an opportunity to show that Nebraska is a state that considers all men created equal,” she said.