We are building on a foundation of 44 years of labor
(FinalCall.com) – Thirty-four years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad was born on or about Oct. 7, 1897 in Sandersville, Georgia. The exact date of his birth remains unknown because recordkeeping in rural Georgia for the descendants of slaves was not kept current, according to historians and family members. Nevertheless, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad said his birth took place some time in the first or second week of October in 1897 and set forth October as the anniversary date of his birth.
Indeed, life in the rural South at the turn of the century was quite hard. Poverty and survival were at war with each other. Elijah Poole–the son of a minister and whose parents, William (later named Wali) and Marie Poole, had 12 other children–had to quit school after barely finishing the third grade to work in the fields as a sharecropper so his family could eat.
Just before the roaring twenties came in, Elijah Poole married the former Clara Evans, also of Georgia, with whom he would have eight children. In April 1923, he moved his young family from Macon, Ga., where he worked for the Southern Railroad Company and the Cherokee Brick Company, to Detroit, Mich. Black families, like the Pooles, were leaving the South at that time, in search of better economic and social circumstances, and Detroit was a bustling upwardly mobile city with its burgeoning auto industry.
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 is now time for Blacks to return to the religion of their ancestors, Islam. News spread all over the city of Detroit of the preaching of this great man from the East. Elijah Poole’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.
Hence, in 1931, after hearing his first lecture at the Temple of Islam, Elijah Poole was overwhelmed by the message and immediately accepted it. Soon thereafter, he invited and convinced his entire family to accept Islam. He quickly became an integral part of the Temple of Islam. For the next three-and-one-half years, he was personally taught by his Teacher non-stop. The Muslim community, in addition to establishing religious centers of worship, began to start businesses under the aegis of economic development that focuses on buying and selling between and among Black companies. Mr. Muhammad established a newspaper, The Final Call to Islam, in 1934. This would be the first of many publications he would produce.
Meanwhile, he helped establish schools for the proper education of our children, as Muslim parents felt the educational system of the State of Michigan was wholely inadequate for their children. By 1934, the Michigan State Board of Education disagreed with their 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. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said he committed himself to jail after learning what had happened. Ultimately, the charges were later dropped, and the officials were freed.
He moved to Chicago in September of that same year. His Teacher, Master W. Fard Muhammad, was also harassed by the police and was forced out of Detroit and moved to Chicago where he continued to face imprisonment and harassment by the police. In 1934, Master W. Fard Muhammad departed the scene and left the Honorable Elijah Muhammad with the mission of resurrecting the Black man and woman.
By 1935, he faced many new challenges. His Teacher had instructed him to go to Washington, D.C., to visit the Library of Congress in order to research 104 books on the religion of Islam. He faced a death plot at the hands of a few disgruntled members. He avoided their evil plan and went to Washington, D.C., to study and build a mosque there. While there, he was arrested on May 8, 1942 for allegedly evading the draft.
“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,” the Honorable Elijah Muhammad wrote in “Message To The Blackman.” “Second, I was 45 years of age and was NOT, according to the law, required to register.”
After World War II ended, he won his release from prison and returned to Chicago. From Chicago, the central point of the Nation of Islam, he expanded the membership of the Nation of Islam to new heights. During the 1950s, he began to syndicate his weekly newspaper column, “Mr. Muhammad Speaks,” in Black newspapers across the country.
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. By the early 1960s, the Readers Digest magazine described the Honorable Elijah Muhammad as the most powerful Black man in America. In Washington, D.C., he delivered his historic Uline Arena address and was afforded presidential treatment, receiving a personal police escort. The Black literary genius, James Baldwin released the book, “The Fire Next Time,” based largely upon his interview with the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
By the mid-sixties, the Nation of Islam extended itself to over 60 cities and settlements abroad in Ghana, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America, among others places, according to the Muhammad Speaks newspaper.
A host of Islamic and African governments received the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and donated generously to his mission. He visited the Holy City of Mecca where he performed “Umrah” (which is Pilgrimage to Mecca at a time other than the “Hajj season”) during his trip to the Middle East in 1959 and advocated worldwide brotherhood and sisterhood.
Every February 26, he brought together the faithful for Saviour’s Day conventions in Chicago to remember his Teacher’s birthday, re-emphasize his message of moral and spiritual renewal and announce his plans and agenda for the upcoming year. Economic development combined with moral and spiritual renewal began to show signs of progress with the establishment of farms, livestock and vegetable cultivation, rental housing, private home construction and acquisitions, real estate purchases, food-processing centers, restaurants, clothing factories, banking, business league formations, import and export businesses, aviation, health care, administrative offices, shipping on land, sea and air, and men’s and women’s development and leadership training units.
In 1972, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad opened a $2 million mosque and school in Chicago. During the important grand opening of the mosque, he praised and let it be known who was his top helper in his work. He asked Minister Farrakhan to come before the religious community and then made the following announcement: “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,” he continued, “our great national preacher. … 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. I thank you.”
The Long March from Sandersville, Georgia continues (FCN, 10-08-2006)