It was September 1977, at the annual Congressional Black Caucus Dinner. Min. Louis Farrakhan was in attendance. He was a “free spirit” so to speak. He was no longer affiliated with the World Community of Islam in the West, what had been the Nation of Islam. Min. Farrakhan told me that he was traveling around the country, considering a number of career options.
A few months later, in early 1978 Min. Farrakhan announced publicly that he would rebuild the Nation of Islam, based on the Teaching and example of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Many activists and intellectuals cheered. The Nation of Islam was coming back!
When the Hon. Elijah Muhammad departed in February 1975, the Nation of Islam went through a number of rapid changes. Imam Warithudeen Mohammed, the son of Mr. Muhammad took over the leadership, first as “Chief Minister,” then as “Supreme Minister.” He changed many of the teachings and customs of the Nation. Although Min. Farrakhan, who had rebuilt Mosque No. 7 in New York City, after the departure of Min. Malcolm X, was the popular National Representative of Mr. Muhammad, his successor relocated Min. Farrakhan to Chicago where he was assigned to teach at meetings held in a second-floor walk-up on Chicago’s Westside.
The Nation was in a tailspin. Its businesses were abandoned or failing. Real estate, including farmland, was lost. The newspaper changed its name from Muhammad Speaks to Bilalian News.
The Hon. Elijah Muhammad’s reputation was being trashed, and there was no movement to defend his honor. The enemies of the Nation wanted the public and even former members of the Nation to believe that Mr. Muhammad had lied to his followers, and that their suffering and sacrifices to build up the Nation, were in vain.
Led for a while by a Brother David, a very small band of Nation of Islam supporters were eager to see Min. Farrakhan call for a rebirth of the Nation in 1978.
When Min. Farrakhan stood up to re-establish the Nation, there were other staunch allies among Black Nationalist and Socialist and other radical communities who welcomed the return of Min. Farrakhan to the ongoing national Black rhetorical debate. In Chicago, Min. Farrakhan’s early meetings at writer Haki Madhubuti’s Institute for Positive Education (IPE) in Chicago are well known for their part in the rebirth of the Nation. In Washington, there were similar allies, eager to provide a platform for Min. Farrakhan.
Min. Farrakhan’s first two venues in Washington, D.C.–where he preached Black Unity and solidarity, and salvation by following the example of Mr. Muhammad–were at Union Temple Baptist Church in Southeast, and Ujamaa School in Northwest. The Rev. Willie Wilson was pastor of Union Temple Baptist, and Baba Senzengakulu El Zulu was the founder and director of Ujamaa School, founded in 1968.
In his work to rebuild the Nation of Islam according to the principles taught by Mr. Muhammad, Min. Farrakhan devoted considerable personal resources to Washington, D.C. and Mosque No. 4.
For more than six months, Min. Farrakhan personally visited Washington, lecturing every single week at the Phyllis Wheatley Y.W.C.A. And led by a new cadre of followers, including Bro. James X and Simeon X Booker of Mosque No. 4 began to solidify once again, behind Min. Farrakhan’s leadership.
Min. Farrakhan’s voice was becoming increasingly important among radical Black intellectuals. In cities all across the country, Black Socialists, Nationalists, and Muslims stood with Min. Farrakhan and assisted in returning the Nation to its prior strength.
This across-the-board support was manifest in Saviour’s Day 1981: “The Rebirth of The Nation.” Min. Farrakhan formally announced the return of the Nation of Islam in Chicago on Feb. 21, 1981.
This first revival of Saviour’s Day was like “the Good Ol’ Days,” and then some. There were familiar activities like the drill competition for F.O.I. and for M.G.T. & G.C.C. class members. There was a bazaar with food, clothes, and literature.
And for the first time, there were a dozen workshops, many of them presided over by experts who were not affiliated with the Nation, who spoke on a broad variety of subjects, including finance, the news media and mass communication, community relationships with Black police officers, and even emergency preparedness, taught by a former instructor at a U.S. military service academy.
Haki Madhubuti, Lu Palmer, well known leaders of Chicago’s militant Black intellectual community were present, as were National Black Police Association founders Renault Robinson and Howard Saffold, among others.
Brother Capt. James X Booker of Washington, D.C., who would eventually move to Chicago where he became Abdul Wali Muhammad, and editor in chief of The Final Call, organized the principal Mosque No. 4 contingent, a chartered bus, which accommodated about 40 believers.
“So we here in Chicago felt that–and still feel that–he is probably the only man that can command a large audience,” Mr. Madhubuti told this writer for a 1981 Public Radio documentary called “The Rebirth of the Nation.”
“So therefore if the programs that can be structured within the context of the Nation can essentially benefit more than just those that are registered Muslims, then it’s going to benefit the (entire) race. Because what he is trying to do here-–he and the other brothers and sisters that work with him–is to really bring in non-Muslims. Bring in a larger spectrum of the community and try to really forge that bond and I think that at a certain level, it’s going to work,” he continued.
Mr. Palmer agreed. “Well I have great confidence in what the Nation-the rebirth of the Nation of Islam is going to do. I have great confidence in Min. Farrakhan. And I’m just delighted to see here in Chicago this kind of two-day Saviour’s Day again.
“You will recall that I had great, great affection for the Hon. Elijah Muhammad because he thought as I think or maybe I should say I think as he thought, in terms of doing for self. And the fact that Min. Farrakhan is carrying on that tradition I think gives us a lot of hope.”
Min. Farrakhan invited full news media scrutiny of Saviour’s Day 1981.
“We invited you here to give you an earth-shaking announcement,” Min. Farrakhan said in his remarks at the Pick Congress Theater, “that from this day forward we will be challenged to prove, but if you watch us, if you listen to us, I guarantee you every nation and every kingdom on earth will be rocked by the power coming from this tiny little budding nation that Jesus described as a mustard seed. You are looking at the birth, not just of the Nation of Islam but the birth of the Kingdom of God Almighty on Earth.
“The Honorable Elijah Muhammad met a man in Detroit, Michigan, a man who gave many names but the name that he left us with was Master Fard Muhammad. Many people say that this somewhat mystery-man, Master Fard Muhammad, who taught Elijah Muhammad was some false man. But, as you can tell a tree by the fruit it bears, you can tell a man by his work.
“Why is it so difficult for us and the world to believe that Allah would intervene in our affairs and raise up from the midst of Black people a messenger for our salvation,” Min. Farrakhan continued.
“Every party is coming up with an excuse now to justify their denial of Elijah Muhammad’s messengership. He must be an imposter. He made it up. He forged it. We deem him to be a liar. Oh he’s of those deluded. If you believe that Allah sent prophets, messengers and apostles to the people of the past and you do believe thatdon’t you?
“Why do you refuse to acknowledge a man raised among us today?Listen now, you believe that Moses came? You believe that Jesus came? You believe that Noah, and Abraham and Lot came? You believe that Prophet Muhammad of Arabia came? You do believe or do you?Because if you do believe that God did these wonderful things yesterday, what happened to him? Has he turned up to be a sissy? He can’t do it today?
“No you don’t believe. Your life is not worth a quarter in America. Your life is less than a dog’s life in America. The White man will set a dog at his table but will not even ask you to come in by the back door. He’ll pick up a stray dog on the highway and he will leave you on the highway hungry, naked and out of doors. He will stop your car if you run over a dog but will run over Black men, Black women, and Black children day and night, shoot you down like a beast in the street and then justify it by saying you attacked them.
“Don’t you tell me that we don’t need a Saviour, for the Black man in America. We need a Saviour and I ask you do Black people qualify for one. I appeal to God, have we met the requirements?If I meet the requirements to go to school and you deny me, why?If I meet the requirements to buy a home in a decent neighborhood and you deny me, why?If I meet the requirements to call down from heaven its blessings and mercy and a messenger and a warner and a Saviour and you God reject me, I ask you why?Are you racist too?”
Min. Farrakhan also made one additional “earth-shaking announcement”–as well as a startling prediction. Min. Farrakhan declared that the Hon. Elijah Muhammad is alive. “Brothers and sisters, a Saviour is born. I know you think Elijah is dead but I’m here to tell you he is as alive as you sitting right down in that seat. Not only is he alive and well but he’s in power now.
“Because I am His witness. United States Government of America, we are raised up again as a dare. Our father and His God dare you to touch us. We don’t have the power to destroy you but our Father does. And it may be that to prove that He is with us, within three months a major calamity, a major calamity will strike America to prove to the government of America that we are no longer a forsaken people but that God is present and He’s with us.”
In just five weeks, on March 30, a major calamity struck America. John Hinckley Jr., shot President Ronald Reagan, his press secretary and a D.C. police officer, outside the Washington Hilton Hotel.
On April 14, 1981 speaking to a small group at Howard University, Min. Farrakhan was asked whether the attempted assassination of President Reagan was the major event he predicted in his Saviour’s Day address.
“It is quite possible that it is related though in all honesty and truth I did not have that at all in my mind. Now to show the power of the God, when I was here in Washington I told Mr. Reagan that there’s a straight line from Abraham Lincoln to himself. And I told him that there was 120 years. Between Abraham Lincoln and his administration, and that that 12 represents a guiding rule, a guiding principle, but 1 and 2 represent 3 and 3 means you’re under trial.
“And on the third month of the 30th day the man was shot and the bullet went in between the sixth and seventh rib and lodged three inches from his heart. And it shook the government and the world. This is how God answers.
“I can only say I had nothing of that in mind, but when it happened I said maybe this is the answer and I said after I saw that on television I said every one of those men are going to completely recover. Like the Messenger told us, Babylon could have been healed but she was not. But America got to do right by us, if she does right by us God will bless her to live a little longer.”