The Nation of Islam began in the context of Black Nationalism during the early twentieth century (1913-1929). Black Nationalism arose in the context of political, religious and cultural oppression of blacks by whites. African Americans were subjected to unequal distribution of rewards, political power, and opportunities, which systematically restrictstheir chances to succeed as a group. By organizing in a social movement, African Americans wanted to change the conditions of racial and class inequality.
The origins of the Black Muslim movement are found in two black improvement organizations that began shortly before World War I (1914-1918): the Moorish Science Temple of America, founded in 1913 by Noble Drew Ali, and the Universal NegroImprovement Association, founded in 1914 by Marcus Garvey.
Marcus Garvey, who was mainly political, directly influenced W.D. Fard and Elijah Muhammad, and Garvey’s writings indirectly influenced Malcolm X., since he promoted independent black commerce and industry, and the emigration of all blacks to Africa, he also taught that whites were an inferior race and that God was black.
Marcus Garvey wasknown as the father of black nationalism, he successfully mobilized in the 1920s a tremendous economic and social movement on the platforms of "return to Africa" and nationalism. His separatist strategy was rooted in "race first," self-help, and nationhood. By appealing to black pride and dignity and promoting a black economic power base, Garvey eventually created a huge international support. Heprofoundly changed the way many African Americans and other black people viewed themselves and their role in predominantly white societies. His ideals introduced to many oppressed blacks the possibility of independence and free choice under a separate racial regime.
The organization of Noble Drew Ali who was mainly religious, namely the Moorish Science Temple of America, is a synthesis of BlackNationalism, Islam, Freemasonry, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. He advocated that Christianity is the white religion and Islam is the black religion and Whites are the creatures of evil.
However, Marcus Garvey’s imprisonment and deportation in Jamaica in 1922, and Noble Drew Ali’s death in 1929 left a empty place of leadership in the Black Nationalism movement. Thus all this events and influences led tothe creation of the Nation of Islam. We can wonder what characterize this new controversial organization that still exists in the present day. Its infamous leaders are an essential component of the organization, since they established a religious and political doctrine, which is incompatible with traditional Islam and Christian teachings.
I) Roots of the Organization and its Key Leaders.The Nation of Islam was created by Wallace D. Fard, also known as Wallace Fard Muhammad. Fard claimed to come from the Islamic city of Mecca. He began a mosque in Detroit in 1930. He taught that Christianity should be rejected since it was the “slave-master’s religion.” In 1934 Fard disappeared and was neither seen nor heard from again. Fard was succeeded by Elijah Muhammad (Elijah Poole).Elijah Poole changed his name to Elijah Muhammad after joining the Nation of Islam. After Fard disappeared, Elijah took over the leadership of the Nation of Islam and he developed it into the wealthiest black organization in American history.
Then Malcolm Little joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name to Malcolm X. He achieved fame in the early 1960s as the spokesperson for ElijahMuhammad. His fiery style and natural speaking ability made Malcolm X a popular public speaker, but his growing reputation caused tension with Elijah Muhammad and other Black Muslim leaders. While Muhammad tried to maintain the Nation of Islam as a religious self-help movement, Malcolm was increasingly moving towards a political response to racism. He called for a black revolution, which he...