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CHAPTER 2 Even before the bus carrying Malcolm Little pulled into Boston’s main bus terminal, Ella had decided that her half brother would no longer make his own decisions about school.
Without checking with him, she enrolled him in a private all-boys’ academy in downtown Boston. He arrived at the school the first morning, learned that there were no girls there, and promptly walked out, never to return to a classroom.
Ella was also “a paranoid character,” he observed, who “because of the militant nature of her character . Early in 1941, Collins had moved to Boston, whereupon he almost immediately enraged Ella by hanging out with her brother, Earl, Jr., at dance halls and nightclubs. In the 1940s, Ella Collins and her family lived among a growing cluster of black homeowners and renters in the Waumbeck and Humboldt Avenue section of Boston, known colloquially as the Hill.
This neighborhood was one of several distinctly different black communities that developed in the city during the first half of the twentieth century.
The population influx, combined with new opportunities and income for African Americans, created a major shift in the demographics of Boston neighborhoods.Like other cities in the Northeast at that time, Boston was multiethnic and expanding. A pleasant community of middle- and working-class families, largely single-family houses, and smaller apartment buildings, it had been predominantly Jewish at the turn of the century, but saw its racial composition change with the rising fortunes of blacks in the years leading up to World War II.Even before Pearl Harbor, Boston’s employment began picking up.The most important, and largest, was Boston’s South End, home to working-class and low-income blacks, with its heart located along Columbus and Massachusetts avenues.Another was the Intown section, located in Lower Roxbury and the blocks just beyond the South End.
In temperament, Ella turned out to be neither a stable parental figure nor a particularly pleasant housemate.