The Black Muslims in America Critical Essays

C. Eric Lincoln


(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

As an African American who experienced racial discrimination in his youth in Alabama during the Jim Crow era, Lincoln has no trouble understanding the Black Muslims’ anger and resentment toward white Americans. He observes that members of the organization have been “drawn together and held together by hatred,” encouraged in their hatred by centuries of white racism. In addition, it is significant that the Black Muslims’ principal source of recruitment has been the inner city, with its “dirty streets and crowded tenements where life is cheap and hope is minimal.” Summarizing the group’s characteristics in the early years, Lincoln writes that the members were generally drawn from the lower socioeconomic classes and were predominantly male, that they tended to be young and “functionally illiterate,” and that a significant percentage had recently migrated to the North from the South, an experience that had heightened their realization of racial subordination.

Lincoln, a liberal minister in the Methodist Church, is firmly committed to the “American creed,” which he defines as a set of beliefs and values that “affirms the basic dignity of every individual and the existence of certain invaluable rights without reference to race, creed, or color.” Having worked with Martin Luther King, Jr., Lincoln naturally regrets that the NoI repudiates this creed, and he writes that the goal of separate nationhood based upon “black supremacy” is...

(The entire section is 436 words.)