Related Link: The Honorable Elijah Muhammad; A True Friend
Nearly three decades after President Abraham Lincoln “freed the slaves” with the Emancipation Proclamation, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad was born on or about Oct. 7, 1897. Mr. Muhammad was born the 7th child of 12 to William (later named Wali) and Marie Poole, in Sandersville, Ga. Due to poor record keeping by government officials, the exact date of his birth remains unknown, according to historians and family members. Nevertheless, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad said his birth took place some time between the first or second week of October 1897 and established Oct. 7 as the anniversary date of his birth.
His life’s accomplishments and achievements have made a major impact on both Black and white America. Like few other figures in American history, he quite simply reconstructed society like no one else.
The accomplishments of the Muslims, under his direction, achieved dramatic, never before seen results in the areas of religion, politics, social interaction, economic development, and international affairs for the so-called American Negro at that time. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, in the dawning of the 21st century, remains a pivotal world policy maker and key figure whose program and position will shape the destiny of the new century and millennium, his supporters have determined.
From humble beginnings, Mr. Muhammad’s early life in the rural south was hard. In order to help his family survive, Mr. Muhammad had to leave school after the third grade to work in the fields as a sharecropper. His skills in problem solving and conflict resolution were beginning to show during his childhood. In many instances, when disputes arose among the children even before they reached their parents or neighbors, Mr. Muhammad would solve the problems, according to family members.
Prior to the “Roaring Twenties,” Mr. Muhammad married Clara Evans. Nov. 2, 1999 marked the centennial of the birth of Mother Clara Muhammad, a co-founder of the Nation of Islam, who made her transition in 1972. Meanwhile, during the early days of their marriage, economic opportunities in the south for Black families declined and widespread racial conflict-s continued to rise. Hence, Mr. Muhammad moved his young family in 1923 to Detroit, Mich., in search of better economic and social circumstances, as did many other Black families at the time.
By the end of the 1920s, both black and white America plunged into the bowels of severe economic misery at the hands of the stock market crash of 1929. Hard times would force many people to go on relief. Lynchings, race riots, that is, whites attacking defenseless Blacks, and other forms of terrorism against Blacks at the hands of whites continued unabated, as reported by Ida B. Wells, W.E.B. DuBois and other credible sources.
However, Detroit, with its huge population of 1.5 million people, including 250,000 Blacks, was beginning to see changes in its social scene. On July 4, 1930, the long awaited “Saviour” of the Black man and woman, Master W. Fard Muhammad, appeared in this city. He announced and preached that God is One, and it was now time for Blacks to return to the religion of their ancestors, Islam.
News spread all over the city of Detroit of the great things taking place on Hastings Street brought about by the benevolence and generosity of this distinguished yet mysterious man from the East. Mr. Muhammad’s wife first learned of the Temple of Islam and wanted to attend to see what the commotion was all about, but instead, her husband advised her that he would go and see for himself.
In the autumn of 1931, Elijah Poole attended his first lecture by Master Fard Muhammad and was overwhelmed by the message and immediately accepted it. With the great spiritual inspiration Mr. Muhammad received from his visit to the Temple of Islam, he was able to convince his entire family to embrace his new found religion.
The Founder of the Nation of Islam gave Elijah the surname “Karriem” and made him a minister. Later he was promoted to the position of “Supreme Minister” and his name was changed to Muhammad.
A new man
“The name ‘Poole’ was never my name nor was it my father’s name,” he would later write. “It was the name the white slavemaster of my grandfather after the so-called freedom of my fathers.”
Mr. Muhammad, in the early1930s, along with 25,000 other believers in Detroit, quickly worked to help this great man from the East build the so-called Lost and Found Nation of Islam. Over the course of the next three-and-one-half years, Minister Muhammad was personally taught by his Teacher non-stop.
The Muslim community, in addition to establishing religious centers of worship, began to start businesses. Mr. Muhammad established a newspaper, The Final Call to Islam, in 1934. Much of this newspaper’s content contained religious editorials and transcripts of lectures delivered inside the Temple of Islam, as it was known then. This publication would be the first of many publications he would produce.
Meanwhile, Mr. Muhammad and the Muslim parents were so inspired by the message that they had received from Master Fard Muhammad that they worked to establish their own schools for the proper education of their children. Indeed, the Muslim parents felt that the educational system of the State of Michigan was wholly inadequate.
By 1934, the Michigan State Board of Education disagreed with the Muslims’ right to pursue their own educational agenda, and the Muslim teachers and temple secretary were jailed on the false charge of contributing to the delinquency of minors. In response to the State’s denial of the Muslim’s right to self-educate their children, Mr. Muhammad said he committed himself to jail after learning what had happened.
Eventually, the charges were dropped and the school officials were freed and Mr. Muhammad received six months’ probation. Mr. Muhammad’s stance on Islamic education remained firm and the religious community continued to resist placing the Muslim children under white Christian teachers. In September of that same year, he moved to the city of Chicago, where his Teacher had already set up the Islamic settlement.
After several incidents of police harassment against Master W. Fard Muhammad, in both Detroit and Chicago, in 1934, Elijah Muhammad’s teacher departed the scene, under the veil of mystery, and left Mr. Muhammad with the mission of resurrecting the Black man and woman.
By 1935, Mr. Muhammad faced many new challenges. A death plot arose among a few disgruntled members who wanted the leadership position, and Mr. Muhammad took flight, not in fear, but, as he said, to preserve the peace and carry out his Teacher’s instructions to him which was to go to Washington, D.C. to visit the Library of Congress in order to research 104 books on the religion of Islam, among other subjects. He was on the run for the next seven years.
During this period, he was known under many names: “Mr. Evans” (his wife’s maiden name), “Ghulam Bogans,” “Muhammad Rassoull,” “Elijah Karriem” and “Mohammed of U Street.” He also personally founded and established the mosque in Washington, D.C.
America’s war with Japan and Germany gave rise to the draft. On May 8, 1942, Mr. Muhammad was arrested in Washington, D.C., allegedly for draft evasion. “When the call was made for all males between 18 and 44, I refused (NOT EVADED) on the grounds that, first, I was a Muslim and would not take part in war and especially not on the side with the infidels,” he wrote in “Message To The Blackman.”
“Second, I was 45 years of age and was NOT, according to the law, required to register.” Many other male members of the Nation of Islam at that time were imprisoned for being conscientious objectors to World War II.
Nation grows despite persecution
After World War II ended, Mr. Muhammad gained his release from prison and returned to Chicago. From Chicago, the central point of the Nation of Islam, Mr. Muhammad worked hard to expand the Nation of Islam’s membership. Among the many new members to enroll in the ranks of Islam, during this time, were Brother Malcolm X and his family.
During the 1950s, Mr. Muhammad promoted Minister Malcolm X to the post of national spokesman, and began to syndicate his weekly newspaper column, “Mr. Muhammad Speaks,” in Black newspapers across the country. As the membership continued to increase, by 1955, Minister Louis Farrakhan, then known as Louis Walcott, an entertainer, enrolled in the Nation of Islam after hearing Mr. Muhammad deliver a speech in Chicago.
Persecution of the Muslims continued. Members and mosques continued to be attacked by whites in Monroe, La., Los Angeles, Calif., and Flint, Mich., among others. Publicity in the white-owned-and-operated media began to circulate anti-Nation of Islam propaganda on a massive scale. By the early 1960s, the Readers Digest magazine described Mr. Muhammad as the most powerful Black man in America.
In Washington, D.C., Mr. Muhammad delivered his historic Uline Arena address in 1959 and was afforded presidential treatment, receiving a personal police escort.
Subsequently, television commentator Mike Wallace, in conjunction with Louis Lomax, a Black journalist, aired the documentary, “The Hate That Hate Produced,” on a local New York City station. The documentary misrepresented the message of the Nation of Islam, calling it a hate teaching. James Baldwin, a famous Black author, released the book, “The Fire Next Time,” based largely upon his interview with Mr. Muhammad.
At the same time, white political leaders began to denounce the Nation of Islam and held hearings on alleged “un-American” activities. Minister Louis Farrakhan and the believers of Islam defended the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam against these attacks.
Meanwhile, by 1964, Minister Malcolm X decided to separate from the Nation of Islam and formed his own religious and political organization. His very public defection from the Nation of Islam was based on his misinterpretation of the domestic life of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and counterintelligence efforts by the U.S. Government.
Nevertheless, the atmosphere of rancor on both sides made ripe the environment for the secret police to meddle in the affairs of the Nation of Islam and Black America, according to late attorney, William Kuntsler. Mr. Kuntsler cited a declassified memo obtained under the auspices of the Freedom of Information Act that revealed that the U.S. Government played a role in the 1965 assassination of Brother Malcolm X.
After the assassination, the New York mosque was fire bombed and the Muslim community was reeling. Mr. Muhammad then dispatched Minister Louis Farrakhan to New York City to take over the mosque there and begin the rebuilding effort. In 1965, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad promoted Minister Louis Farrakhan to the post of national representative.
By the mid-sixties, Mr. Muhammad’s ever-growing Islamic movement extended itself to more than 60 cities and settlements abroad in Ghana, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America among other places, according to the Muhammad Speaks newspaper, the religion’s chief information apparatus.
A host of Islamic and African governments all over the world received the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and donated generously to his mission. Mr. Muhammad made Hajj to Mecca (the holy pilgrimage and a pillar of Islam) on more than one occasion and advocated universal brotherhood and sisterhood.
Every February 26, he brought together the faithful for Saviours’ Day conventions in Chicago to celebrate his Teacher’s birthday. In addition to re-emphasizing his message of moral and spiritual renewal that also featured his future plans and agenda for the upcoming year, Mr. Muhammad also announced his economic development programs. Under his leadership, the Nation of Islam began to show signs of progress with the establishment of farms, livestock and vegetable cultivation, rental housing units, private home construction and acquisitions,
other real estate purchases, food processing centers, restaurants, bakeries, lamb packing and cold storage facilities, clothing factories, banking, business league formations, import and export businesses, aviation, health care, administrative offices, shipping on land, sea and air, plans for modern university and campus in Chicago in addition to men’s and women’s development and leadership training units.
Muhammad’s greatest helper
By 1972, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad opened a $2 million mosque and school in Chicago. During this important grand opening of Temple No. 2, as it was known then, he praised and let it be known who his top helper was in his work.
He asked Minister Farrakhan to come before the religious community and then made the following announcement while digressing from his previously stated remarks: “I want you to remember, today, I have one of my greatest preachers here. … What are you hiding behind the sycamore tree for brother? (He chuckled.) C’mon around here where they can see you! (A rousing round of applause ensued).
“We have with us today,” Mr. Muhammad continued, “our great national preacher. The preacher who don’t mind going into Harlem, New York, one of the most worst towns in our nation or cities. It is our brother in Detroit and Chicago or New York. But, I want you to remember every week he’s on the air helping me to reach those people that I can’t get out of my house and go reach them like he.
“I want you to pay good attention to his preaching. His preaching is a bearing of witness to me and what God has given to me,” he declared. “This is one of the strongest national preachers that I have in the bounds of North America. Everywhere you hear him, listen to him. Everywhere you see him, look at him. Everywhere he advises you to go, go. Everywhere he advises you to stay from, stay from. For we are thankful to Allah for this great helper of mine, Minister Farrakhan.” (Another rousing round of applause ensued). “He’s not a proud man,” he said. “He’s a very humble man. If he can carry you across the lake without dropping you in; he don’t say when you get on the other side, ‘You see what I have done?’ He tells you, ‘You see what Allah has done.’ He doesn’t take it upon himself. He’s a mighty fine preacher. We hear him every week, and I say continue to hear our Minister Farrakhan. …”
In watching Minister Louis Farrakhan and the followers of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, the legacy of the Nation of Islam continues to make unlimited progress as witnessed by the “miracle” of the “Two Million Man March” among other truly amazing accomplishments.
Photos: #1-Portrait of The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad; #2-Master Fard Muhammad; #3-Disciplined student displays Muhammad Speaks newspaper; #4-On May 8, 1942, Mr. Muhammad was arrested in Washington, D.C. allegedly for draft evasion; #5-Hon. Elijah Muhammad in discussion with Dr. Martin L. King in 1966; #6-The Hon. Elijah Muhammad’s top student, Min. Farrakhan, adjusts mike.