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The Nation of Islam

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Chapter Summary

This chapter discusses the emergence and development of the Nation of Islam between 1930 and 1945. The Nation’s teachings were initially spread by W.D. Fard in Detroit’s black community, and it is proposed that the African American experience in the city helped predispose many people to embrace Fard’s ideas, as did the former presence of the Garvey movement and the Moorish Science Temple of America. It is argued, furthermore, that the Nation’s teachings also resonated deeply with certain liberationist and millennialist elements of African American folk religion, and in fact some folk traditions were deeply interwoven into the Nation’s doctrines. After its initial growth spurt that produced temples in Detroit, Chicago, and Milwaukee, the Nation faced significant opposition from local police and courts as well as internal tensions that led to schisms and Fard’s permanent departure from the community. After securing his own small following, one of Fard’s leading ministers, Elijah Muhammad, left for Washington from where he attempted to rebuild the movement. In the early 1940s, as the community had started seeing some new growth, a large proportion of its male membership was incarcerated for both draft evasion and the promotion of anti-American ideas.



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