Form and Content

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

C. Eric Lincoln’s The Black Muslims in America was the first serious historical account of the Nation of Islam (NoI, sometimes known as Black Muslims), an organization that combines portions of the Islamic religion with Black Nationalism—an ideology that advocates separation from white society. Lincoln begins his historical account with a summary of two of the group’s precursors, Marcus Garvey, the most famous Black Nationalist of the early twentieth century, and Noble Drew, who endorsed the ideology within the context of an unorthodox Islamic sect. He then discusses Wallace D. Fard, a former leader of Drew’s movement who in 1930 founded the Allah Temple of Islam (ATI). While the ATI retained several Islamic symbols and teachings, Fard added new elements, including the doctrines that African Africans were the original people and that whites were devils created by an evil black scientist named Dr. Yakub.

Lincoln believes that Garvey and Drew “capitalized on the lower-class black man’s despair and reservations about the white man.” Fard, he says, added a spiritual dimension to Black Nationalism, developing “black consciousness into a confession of faith.” One of Fard’s devoted disciples, Elijah Pool, who later changed his name to Elijah Muhammad, introduced the doctrine that Fard was actually Allah (or God). Although this doctrine was contrary to traditional Islamic teachings, Fard apparently endorsed it. In 1934, when Fard was...

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(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Curtis, Edward E., IV. “Islamizing the Black Body: Ritual and Power in Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam.” Religion and American Culture 12 (Summer, 2002): 167-196. Excellent article that takes issue with Lincoln’s characterization of the early Black Muslims as primarily political and not profoundly religious.

Lincoln, C. Eric. “The Universal Black Experience: An Interview with C. Eric Lincoln.” Interview by Yvonne Ochillo. The Journal of Negro History 75 (Summer/Autumn, 1990): 112-119. Lincoln discusses his views on religion, civil rights, and sociology.

Lincoln, C. Eric., et al. “Black Scholars Recall Racism from their Undergraduate Years.” Journal of Blacks in Higher Education 14 (Winter, 1996): 101-103. Interesting memoirs by C. Eric Lincoln, John Hope Franklin, and others, illustrating how perceptions of racial prejudice influenced their thinking.

Quarles, Benjamin. Review of The Black Muslims in America, by C. Eric Lincoln. The Journal of Negro History 46 (April, 1961): 198-199. Important contemporary assessment of Lincoln’s history of the Nation of Islam.

Trulear, Harold. “Sociology of Afro-American Religion: An Appraisal of C. Eric Lincoln’s Contribution.” Journal of Religious Thought 42 (Fall/Winter, 1985-1986): 44-56. Valuable for persons interested in the academic fields of sociology, ethnic studies, and the sociology of religion.

Turner, Richard Brent. Islam in the African-American Experience. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997. Excellent book investigating the connection between African Americans and Islam from the colonial period through the end of the twentieth century. Adds context to Lincoln’s pioneering study.