History Often Behind the Doors of Self Storage Units

Posted on Jul 30 2012 - 9:17pm by Winnie Hsiu

Ask the common person what they think is behind the doors of the majority of self storage units and they’ll likely say it’s someone’s junk. Reality shows like Storage Wars and Auction Hunters have shown us that often hiding in that trash is another man’s treasure. Often times that treasure is even a piece of history.

In a way, the contents of every self storage unit can be referred to as a piece of history with each piece telling a story about the owner, where he/she has been, what they’ve done, and even where they want to go. However, there have been a number of times where items of historical significance are found buried inside a self storage unit.

For example, recently at an auction held at Manhattan Mini Storage a unit owned by Malcolm X’s wife Betty Shabazz was scheduled to go up for auction after falling more than $2400 behind in rent. Inside was a collection of his personal archives.  Luckily, the estate of the former civil rights leader stepped in and was able to work out a deal giving the family till late August to settle the bill.

A rep for the family said that there had been some confusion with the delivery of the notices, and that nothing of real value had been in the unit anyway.

It wasn’t the first time that a member of Malcolm X’s family had failed to pay rent on a self storage unit. In 2002, his daughter Malikah fell behind on a self storage unit in Orlando, Florida, and a flea-market owner ended up getting a steal on a unit with some of Malcolm X’s personal archives. 

Earlier this year at a self storage auction in Connecticut a buyer discovered that he had some papers that were from a friend of Malcolm X, Malcolm “Shorty” Jarvis. He had been a longtime friend of Malcolm X, and had spent time in prison together. 

The new owner realized he had something of historical significance on his hands, and sold the documents to the Malcolm X Memorial Fund and the Black History 101 Mobile Museum.

“Once (the buyer) found out that it was of a significant historical nature, he decided then he didn’t want to break the collection up. He wanted to make sure it went to the right home,” said el-Hakim, a former Detroit Public Schools teacher now in graduate school at Western Michigan University.

Sources Used:

“Treasures in X-treme Peril.” New York Post; 27 July 2012.

“Malcolm X artifacts unearthed: Police docs and more found among belongs of ‘Shorty’ Jarvis.” The Grio; 01 February 2012.