Nation of Islam

Black Muslims

Black Muslims, African-American religious movement in the United States, split since the late 1970s into the American Society of Muslims and the Nation of Islam. The original group was founded (1930) in Detroit by Wali Farad (or W. D. Fard), whom his followers believed to be "Allah in person." When Farad disappeared mysteriously in 1934, Elijah Muhammad assumed leadership of the group, first in Detroit and then in Chicago. Under his leadership, the black nationalist and separatist sect (then called the Nation of Islam) expanded, mainly among poor blacks and prison populations. Although the group numbered only about 8,000 when Muhammad took over, it grew rapidly in the 1950s and 60s, particularly as a result of the preaching of one of its ministers, Malcolm X. Tension between Muhammad and Malcolm developed, however, and Malcolm's subsequent suspension (1963) and assassination (1965), possibly by Muhammad's followers, caused great dissension in the movement. When Muhammad died in 1975, his son, Wallace D. Muhammad (later Warith Deen Mohammed) took over, preaching a far less inflammatory version of Islam. He aligned the organization with the international Islamic community, moving toward Sunni Islamic practice, and opened the group (renamed the World Community of al-Islam in the West, then the American Muslim Mission, and later the American Society of Muslims) to individuals of all races. In 1977 a group of Black Muslims, led by Louis Farrakhan, split off from the organization, disillusioned by the son's integrationist ideals and lack of allegiance to his father's brand of Islam. They named themselves the Nation of Islam and sought to follow in the footsteps of Elijah Muhammad. In the late 1990s the Nation of Islam began to embrace some traditional Islamic practices, and Farrakhan and Mohammed publicly declared an end to the rivalry between their groups in 2000. W. Deen Mohammed resigned as head of the American Society of Muslims in 2003.

See L. E. Lomax, When the Word Is Given (1964, repr. 1979); C. Eric Lincoln, The Black Muslims in America (1973, repr. 1982); C. E. Marsh, From Black Muslims to Muslims (1984).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Nation of Islam: Selected full-text books and articles

Odd Gods: New Religions and the Cult Controversy By James R. Lewis Prometheus Books, 2001
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 8 "Islamic Tradition"
Black Muslim Religion in the Nation of Islam, 1960-1975 By Edward E. Curtis IV University of North Carolina Press, 2006
The Life and Times of Elijah Muhammad By Claude Andrew Clegg III University of North Carolina Press, 2014
Making the American Religious Fringe: Exotics, Subversives, and Journalists, 1955-1993 By Sean McCloud University of North Carolina Press, 2004
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Race, Class, and the Subversive Cold War Other: Depicting the Nation of Islam, 1959–1965"
Black Zion: African American Religious Encounters with Judaism By Yvonne Chireau; Nathaniel Deutsch Oxford University Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "The Proximate Other: The Nation of Islam and Judaism"
Black Political Organizations in the Post-Civil Rights Era By Ollie A. Johnson Iii; Karlin L. Stanford Rutgers University Press, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Six "'You're Not Ready for Farrakhan': The Nation of Islam and the Struggle for Black Political Leadership, 1984-2000"
The Muslim Community in North America By Earle H. Waugh; Baha Abu-Laban; Regula B. Qureshi University of Alberta Press, 1983
Librarian’s tip: "Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Final Call: Schism in the Muslim Movement" begins on p. 234
Integration or Separation?: A Strategy for Racial Equality By Roy L. Brooks Harvard University Press, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 9 "The Nation of Islam"
Islam in America By Jane I. Smith Columbia University Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: "Elijah Muhammed and the Nation of Islam" begins on p. 80
American Extremists: Militias, Supremacists, Klansmen, Communists & Others By John George; Laird Wilcox Prometheus Books, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 22 "The Nation of Islam"
Glory Bound: Black Athletes in a White America By David K. Wiggins Syracuse University Press, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 8 "Victory for Allah: Muhammed Ali, the Nation of Islam, and American Society"
Jesse Jackson and the Politics of Race By Thomas H. Landess; Richard M. Quinn Jameson Books, 1985
Librarian’s tip: Chap. IV "The Black Muslims"
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