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...

(The entire section is 572 words.)