Ella Little-Collins

Ella Little-Collins (1914 – 1996) was an American civil rights activist and the half-sister of Malcolm X.[1] She was born in Butler, Georgia, to Earl Little and Daisy Little (née Mason); her paternal grandparents were John (Big Pa) Lee Little and Ella Little (née Gray), and her siblings were Mary Little and Earl Lee Little Jr. She had seven half-siblings from her father's second marriage: Wilfred, Philbert, Hilda, Reginald, Malcolm, Wesley, and Yvonne.[2] She worked as congressman Adam Clayton Powell's secretary, the manager of her mother's grocery store, and an investor in house property, which she let out as rooming houses.[1] She joined the Nation of Islam in the mid-1950s and helped establish its mosque in Boston and a day-care center attached to it, although she left the Nation in 1959 to become a Sunni Muslim.[1][2] She supported black and ethnic studies programs in universities across the United States and founded the Sarah A. Little School of Preparatory Arts in Boston.[2]

Ella Little-Collins in an undated photo

In his autobiography, Malcolm X wrote about the impact his first meeting with his half-sister had on him. She came to visit when he was in seventh grade, and he described her as "the first really proud black woman I had ever seen" and wrote "I had never been so impressed with anybody."[3] At the end of the school year, he moved to Roxbury to live with her, and she was his guardian until he turned 21.[1][2] Her home, the Malcolm X—Ella Little-Collins House, is the last known surviving childhood home of Malcolm X.[4] Its exterior was designated a Boston Landmark by the Boston Landmarks Commission in 1998,[5] and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2021.[6]

Malcolm Little (left), two unknown women, and Ella Little-Collins (right) in Franklin Park, Roxbury

When Malcolm X left the Nation of Islam in 1964, Little-Collins paid for him to make the Hajj. She also paid his funeral and business expenses after his assassination, and took over his Organization of Afro-American Unity, including his project of giving 35 scholarships from Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, and from the University of Ghana to students wishing to study overseas.[2] In 1986 she merged the Organization of Afro-American Unity with the African American Defense League.[7]

In 1988, both of Little-Collins' legs were amputated due to gangrene.[2] She died in 1996.[1]

The Ella Collins Institute at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center is named after her; its goal is "to establish a vibrant community by joining a classical understanding of Islam with modern scholarship and a healthy understanding of the current cultural context."[8]


  1. ^ a b c d e Hodgson, Godfrey (August 6, 1996). "Obituary: Ella Collins". The Independent. Retrieved July 5, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Who Is Ella Collins?". Ella Collins Institute. Archived from the original on December 16, 2013. Retrieved July 5, 2016.
  3. ^ Malcolm X; with the assistance of Alex Haley (1992) [1965]. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: One World. pp. 39–40. ISBN 978-0-345-37671-8.
  4. ^ "Malcolm X – Ella Little-Collins House". National Trust for Historic Preservation. Retrieved July 5, 2016.
  5. ^ "List of Boston Designated Landmarks" (PDF). Boston Landmarks Commission. January 2014. p. 4. Retrieved July 5, 2016.
  6. ^ "Weekly listing". National Park Service.
  7. ^ Millere, Mauricelm-Lei (2021). Malcolm X and The Organization of Afro-American Unity: African American Defense League (A2DL - OAAU). online: Kindle Books. ASIN B097YR2SBH.
  8. ^ "Our Mission". Ella Collins Institute. Archived from the original on December 16, 2013. Retrieved July 5, 2016.

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