One of the first theme tours I conducted back in 2000 was based on the Life and times of Malcolm X, the biggest fan of the idea was an older gentlemen I just met named Professor Wilcox. I was in search for anything I could find in reference to the presence of Malcolm X in Harlem and all said that I must consult the Professor.
I visited him at his office (Afram Publications) on the 3rd floor of a building on 125th St., a few doors west of the world famous Apollo Theater. Their were things everywhere pertaining to Malcolm X and the Civil Rights movement: books, old newspapers, still photos. Additionally, their were Malcolm X albums containing rare photo’s, documents, and other memorabilia pertaining the slain religious leader. The atmosphere seemed chaotic at first, but Preston seemed to know where everything was and was extremely helpful. He seemed to appreciate what I was trying to put together.
I would later learn that Mr.Wilcox was a seasoned academic and a battle tested Civil Rights Activist. Professor Wilcox earned a Masters in Social Work from Columbia University and immediately combined his academic achievements with his ability to understand and diagnose the social ill’s plaguing the Black community at that time. I would later learn so much more about his involvement in monumental Harlem/urban events such as: Columbia (1968), Freedom Summer (1964), development of NYCHA complexes (1950’s – 1970’s) + much more.
I think he felt that the Malcolm X Walking Tour and tourism could help to address some of the issues in Harlem and offered to be present at the end of my first ever Malcolm X Walking Tour at a landmark restaurant called 22 West on 135th street. 22 West became one of Malcolm X’s favorite places later in his life after splitting with the then Nation of Islam. Above is a damaged picture from that day at 22 West – I must find the negative. The younger guy in the picture is Mr. James Alston IV (Owner), sad to see 22 West gone, it had been around since Mr. James Alston Sr. started it 1962.
Professor Preston Wilcox passed on August 18, 2006, but during Black History Month 2010 (Feb. 26th @ 7:00 PM) the Harlem Heritage Tourism & Cultural Center will present a 60 minute lecture by Professor Wilcox filmed Black History Month 2004 by Harlem Filmmaker Mr. Bill Miles: Below is a brief clip: