Malcolm X's car
Malcolm X's car Credit: Eileen Meslar

Malcolm X, who would have been 88 last Sunday, grew up in Lansing, so it’s probably no surprise that his last car was also a product of Michigan: a 1963 black Oldsmobile 98. In 1972, seven years after he was assassinated, his widow, Betty Shabazz, donated the car to his namesake, Malcolm X College, where it sits in the lobby, looking out onto West Jackson Boulevard.

It’s a development that would have pleased Malcolm, says Shelia Pegues-Porter, the college’s director of public relations. Malcolm’s formal education ended in junior high—the story of how he supplemented it in a prison library is one of the most fascinating parts of The Autobiography of Malcolm X)—but, according to one of his closest aides, he never turned down an opportunity to speak to college students.

Unlike other college landmarks, such as Northwestern’s oft-painted Rock, the car is not part of any bizarre student rituals. It hasn’t been driven in 41 years, since it arrived from New York. That’s because, in order to get it into the building, all the windows in the lobby had to be removed.

“Once they got it in, that’s it,” says Pegues-Porter. “You can’t get it back out.”