Black Muslims

Black Muslims

The Nation of Islam, a black nationalist and religious organization was founded in Detroit, Michigan, in 1930 by Wallace Fard. Fard argued that African Americans could obtain success through discipline, racial pride, knowledge of God, and physical separation from white society.

Fard disappeared in June 1934 and was replaced as leader by Elijah Muhammad. Under the leadership of Muhammad, Black Muslims purchased large areas of land in the Deep South, invested in business ventures and had its own paramilitary force. Members were also instructed to completely abstain from all drugs.

During the Second World War Muhammad advised his followers to avoid the draft. This led to him being charged with violating the Selective Service Act and was jailed between 1942 and 1946.

After his release from prison, Elijah Muhammad gradually built up the membership of the Black Muslims. He described African Americans as the chosen people and urged the adoption of a religion based on the worship of Allah. Muhammad also called for the establishment of a separate nation for African Americans.

In the late 1950s Malcolm X emerged as the most important figure after Muhammad in the Nation of Islam. He went on several speaking tours and helped establish several new mosques. He was eventually assigned to be minister of the mosque in New York's Harlem area. Founder and editor of Muhammad Speaks, Malcolm became more extreme in his views.

In 1963 Malcolm X was suspended from the movement by Muhammad after he made a series of extremist speeches. This included his comments that the assassination of John F. Kennedy was a "case of chickens coming home to roost". In March 1964 Malcolm left the Black Muslims and established his own religious organization, the Organization of Afro-American Unity.

After a pilgrimage to Mecca, Malcolm rejected his former separatist beliefs and advocated world brotherhood. Malcolm X was shot dead at a party meeting in Harlem on 21st February, 1965. Three Black Muslims were later convicted of the murder.

When Elijah Muhammad died in Chicago on 25th February, 1975, the Nation of Islam split. Muhammad's son became leader of the Muslim American Community whereas the Black Muslims were led by Louis Farrakhan.

Primary Sources

(1) Malcolm X, Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965)

The teachings of Mr. Muhammad stressed how history had been "whitened" - when white men had written history books, the black man simply had been left out. Mr. Muhammad couldn't have said anything that would have struck me much harder. I had never forgotten how when my class, me and all those whites, had studied seventh-grade United States history back in Mason, the history of the Negro had been covered in one paragraph.

This is one reason why Mr. Muhammad teachings spread so swiftly all over the United States, among all Negroes, whether or not they became followers of Mr. Muhammad. The teachings ring true - to every Negro. You can hardly show me a black adult in America - or a white one, for that matter - who knows from the history books anything like the truth about the black man's role. In my own case, once I heard of the "glorious history of the black man", I took special pains to hunt in the library for books that would inform me on details about black history.

(2) Malcolm X, Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965)

Every month, I went to Chicago, I would find that some sister had written complaining to Mr. Muhammad that I talked so hard against women when I taught our special classes about the different natures of the two sexes. Now, Islam has very strict laws and teachings about women, the core of them being that the true nature of a man is to be strong, and a woman's true nature is to be weak, and while a man must at all times respect his woman, at the same time he needs to understand that he must control her if he expects to get her respect.

(3) Malcolm X, Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965)

The American black man should be focusing his every effort toward building his own businesses, and decent homes for himself. As other ethnic groups have done, let the black people, wherever possible, patronize their own kind, and start in those ways to build up the black race's ability to do for itself. That's the only way the American black man is ever going to get respect. One thing the white man never can give the black man is self-respect! The black man never can be become independent and recognized as a human being who is truly equal with other human beings until he has what they have, and until he is doing for himself what others are doing for themselves.

The black man in the ghettoes, for instance, has to start self-correcting his own material, moral and spiritual defects and evils. The black man needs to start his own program to get rid of drunkenness, drug addiction, prostitution. The black man in America has to lift up his own sense of values.

I'm right with the Southern white man who believes that you can't have so-called "intergration", at least not for long, without intermarriage increasing. And what good is this for anyone?