Elijah Muhammad (born Elijah Robert Poole; October 7, 1897 – February 25, 1975) was an African American religious leader, black separatist, and self-proclaimed Messenger of Allah, who led the Nation of Islam (NOI) from 1934 until his death in 1975. Muhammad was also the teacher and mentor of Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, Muhammad Ali, and his own son, Warith Deen Mohammed.
In the 1930s, Muhammad established the Nation of Islam, a religious movement that promoted black pride, economic empowerment, and separation of black and white Americans. His ideas were strongly influenced by Wallace Fard Muhammad, who was the founder of the NOI. After Fard's disappearance in 1934, Muhammad led the NOI and saw it grow from a small, struggling organization to a large movement. He was unique in his embrace of both black nationalism and pan-Africanism, as well as traditional Islamic themes.
During Muhammad's tenure, membership in the NOI rose dramatically, going from a mere handful of mosques to over sixty by the end of the decade. Muhammad's teachings promoted black self-sufficiency and self-reliance over integration, and he encouraged African Americans to return to their African homeland. Muhammad also rejected the civil rights movement for its emphasis on integration, instead promoting a separate black community.
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- The White Man does not want to mix, and the Black Man want to be himself, not somebody else. He does not want to mix! Only the boot-licking so called ‘Negro’ comes to another race begging to ‘mix’!
Message to the Blackman (1965)
- America represents herself as a Christian nation. ... They profess to be a friend and defenders of all peace-loving and freedom-loving people. The only people we really see that they want to be friends of are themselves and their kind. They are really sincere when they say that they are freedom-loving people. Above all, the White man the world over wants to be free to rule and dominate the aboriginal people.
- But let them tell you what type of an Apostle or prophet God promised them. Was it a man from some of the enemy colleges and universities with an arm full of degrees coming from these institutions of learning of the enemy?
Let them read their scriptures and see what type of man God promised to choose for a last messenger. How many of the prophets in the past were educated men of the civilization in which they were born before the call of God?
Quotes about Elijah Muhammad
- I have always been respectful towards the Messenger and his followers. What happens in the Nation of Islam and around it is very important. ... The Nation of Islam has survived and that is a very significant development.
- 1972 interview in Conversations with James Baldwin edited by Louis H. Pratt and Fred L. Standley (1989)
- Marcus Garvey, Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Stokely Carmichael, Amiri Baraka and other black male leaders have righteously supported patriarchy. They have all argued that it is absolutely necessary for black men to relegate black women to a subordinate position both in the political sphere and in home life.
- bell hooks, Ain't I a Woman (1981)