By: Louis Farrakhan
Date: October 17, 1995
Source: CNN. Louis Farrakhan's Remarks at the Million Man March, October 17, 1995. Available online at www-cgi.cnn.com/US/9510/megamarch/10-16/transcript/index.html; website home page: (accessed February 17, 2003).
About the Author: Louis Farrakhan (1933–) was born Louis Eugene Walcott in the Bronx, New York, and was raised in Boston, in the West Indian section of Roxbury. Originally planning a career as an entertainer, he heard Malcolm X speak in 1955 in Roxbury and Elijah Muhammad in Chicago in 1956. He joined the Nation of Islam, changing his name first to Louis X and later to Louis Farrakhan. He became the leader of the Nation of Islam in 1977.
The U.S. Muslim population is approximately five million, and in time it will equal the size of the American Jewish population. It is a diverse community of Arabs, Asians (such as Pakistanis and Indonesians), Africans, and African Americans. There is no national organization uniting the Muslim community in the United States, but there are major Islamic centers in Washington, Toledo, Detroit, and New York City. The center in Washington, D.C., includes a beautiful mosque, library, classrooms for study, and administrative offices; it is open for daily prayer and offers lectures and publications on the literature, philosophy, religion, and art of Islam. By the 1990s, Muslims had established more than six hundred mosques and centers across the United States.
A Muslim community that is unique to the United States is the Nation of Islam. This African American religious community was founded in Detroit in 1930 by Wali Farad Muhammad (born Wallace D. Ford). In reaction to the racism facing African Americans when they moved North, the Nation of Islam combined black pride and Islam. Farad gathered eight thousand members in Detroit and in 1931 founded Temple Number 1. Temple Number 2 was founded in Chicago.
Farad disappeared in 1934, and leadership of the community was taken over by Elijah Muhammad (born Robert Poole), the son of a Baptist minister. Elijah Muhammad claimed that Allah had communicated his will to him, which he wrote down in a book called The Supreme Wisdom, as well as further revelations in the journal Muhammad Speaks. Elijah Muhammad taught that all nonwhite people belonged to the tribe of SHABAZZ, which is descended from the patriarch Abraham. The goal of the Nation of Islam is to unite all these people.
Among Elijah Muhammad's most important converts were Malcolm X and Louis Farrakhan. Malcolm Little (1925–1965) joined the Nation of Islam while in a prison cell. He took the name Malcolm X to signal his lost African heritage. He became a public figure during the 1960s, although he separated himself from the Nation of Islam before his death. This was largely the result of his experience of the international character of Islam while on pilgrimage, which differed with Elijah Muhammad's nationalist version.
Louis Farrakhan joined the Nation of Islam in 1955. From 1956 to 1965, he was the minister of Muhammad Temple No. 11 in Boston. In 1965, after the death of Malcolm X, Farrakhan was appointed by Elijah Muhammad to take charge of Temple No. 7 in New York City. After Elijah Muhammed's death in 1975, the movement split. One branch, under the leadership of W. Deen Muhammad, the fifth son of Elijah Muhammed, moved closer to the beliefs and practices of Islam as it is practiced in most of the world. This group, which would later change its name to the American Muslim Mission, is the largest African American Islamic movement. In 1977, Farrakhan took control of the Nation of Islam and returned it to the original views of Elijah Muhammad. While he remains the most recognizable Muslim leader in the United States, many American Muslims would claim that the Nation of Islam under his leadership is not representative of either immigrant or converted Islam in the United States.
Despite these theological differences, Farrakhan remains an African American leader with a large following and great influence. This was demonstrated in 1995 when he organized the Million Man March in Washington, D.C., as an opportunity for black male fellowship, as well as to call attention to injustices against AfricanAmericans in the United States. The excerpt below is from a speech he gave at the event.
Primary Source: Louis Farrakhan's Remarks at the Million Man March, October 17, 1995 [excerpt]
SYNOPSIS: The Nation of Islam is a unique expression of the Muslim faith in the United States. Under the leadership of Elijah Muhammad and later Louis Farrakhan, its nationalistic bent has led it to be regarded as unorthodox by other Muslims, who stress that Islam is a universal religion embracing all nationalities. Still, Farrakhan has become a major voice in the African American community, as evidenced by the Million Man March in 1995.
FARRAKHAN: So, we stand here today at this historic moment. We are standing in the place of those who couldn't make it here today. We are standing on the blood of our ancestors. We are standing on the blood of those who died in the middle passage, who died in the fields and swamps of America, who died hanging from trees in the South, who died in the cells of their jailers, who died on the highways and who died in the fratricidal conflict that rages within our community. We are standing on the sacrifice of the lives of those heroes, our great men and women that we today may accept the responsibility that life imposes upon each traveler who comes this way.
We must accept the responsibility that God has put upon us, not only to be good husbands and fathers and builders of our community, but God is now calling upon the despised and the rejected to become the cornerstone and the builders of a new world.
And so, our brief subject today is taken from the American Constitution. In these words, Toward a more union. Toward a more perfect union.
Now, when you use the word more with perfect, that which is perfect is that which has been brought to completion. So, when you use more perfect, you're either saying that what you call perfect is perfect for that stage of its development but not yet complete. When Jefferson said, "toward a more perfect union," he was admitting that the union was not perfect, that it was not finished, that work had to be done. And so we are gathered here today not to bash somebody else.
We're not gathered here to say, all of the evils of this nation. But we are gathered here to collect ourselves for a responsibility that God is placing on our shoulders to move this nation toward a more perfect union. Now, when you look at the word toward, toward, it means in the direction of, in furtherance or partial fulfillment of, with the view to obtaining or having shortly before coming soon, eminent, going on in progress. Well, that's right. We're in progress toward a perfect union. Union means bringing elements or components into unity.
It is something formed by uniting two or more things. It is a number of persons, states, etcetera, which are joined or associated together for some common purpose. We're not here to tear down America. America is tearing itself down. We are here to rebuild the wasted cities. What we have in the word toward is motion. The honorable Elijah Muhammad taught us that motion is the first law of the universe. This motion which takes us from one point to another shows that we are evolving and we are a part of a universe that is ever evolving.
We are on an evolutionary course that will bring us to perfect or completion of the process toward a perfect union with God. In the word toward there is a law and that law is everything that is created is in harmony with the law of evolution, change. Nothing is standing still.
It is either moving toward perfection or moving toward disintegration. Or under certain circumstances doing both things at the same time. The word for this evolutionary changing affecting stage after stage until we reach perfection. In Arabic it is called Rhab. And from the word Rhab you get the Rhaby, or teacher, one who nourishes a people from one stage and brings them to another stage. Well, if we are in motion and we are, motion toward perfection and we are, there can be no motion toward perfection without the Lord, who created the law of evolution.
And is the master of the changes. Our first motion then must be toward the God, who created the law of the evolution of our being. And if our motion toward him is right and proper, then our motion toward a perfect union with each other and government and with the peoples of the world will be perfected. So, let us start with a process leading to that perfect union must first be seen. Now, brothers and sisters, the day of atonement is established by God to help us achieve a closer tie with the source of wisdom, knowledge, understanding and power.
For it is only through a closer union or tie with him, who created us all, with him who has power over all things that we can draw power, knowledge, wisdom and understanding from him, that we maybe enable to change the realities of our life. A perfect union with God is the idea at the base of atonement. Now, atonement demands of us eight steps, in fact, atonement is the fifth step in an eight stage process.
Look at our division, not here, out there. We are a people, who have been fractured, divided and destroyed because of our division now must move toward a perfect union. But let's look at a speech delivered by a White slave holder on the banks of the James River in 1712.
Sixty-eight years before our former slave masters permitted us to join the Christian faith. Listen to what he said. He said, "In my bag I have a fool proof method of controlling black slaves. I guarantee everyone of you, if installed correctly, it will control the slaves for at least 300 years. My method is simple. Any member of your family or your overseer can use it. I have outlined a number of differences among the slaves and I take these differences and I make them bigger. I use fear, distrust, and envy for control purposes."
I want you to listen. What are those three things? Fear, envy, distrust. For what purpose? Control. To control who? The slave. Who is the slave? Us. Listen, he said, "These methods have worked on my modest plantation in the West Indies and they will work throughout the south.
Now, take this simple little list and think about it. On the top of my list is age. But it's only there because it starts with an A. And the second is color or shade. There's intelligence, sex, size of plantation, status of plantation, attitude of owners, whether the slaves live in the valley or on a hill, north, east, south or west, have fine hair or course hair, or is tall or short.
Now that you have a list of differences I shall give you an outline of action. But before that, I shall assure you that distrust is stronger than trust. And envy is stronger than adulation, respect, or admiration.
The black slave after receiving this indoctrination shall carry it on and will become self-refueling and self-generating for hundreds of years. Maybe thousands of years. Now don't forget, you must pitch the old black male against the young black male. And the young black male against the old black male.
You must use the female against the male. And you must use the male against the female. You must use the dark skinned slave against the light skinned slave. And the light skinned slave against the dark skinned slave.
Alexander, Amy. The Farrakhan Factor: African-American Writers on Leadership, Nationhood, and Minister Louis Farrakhan. New York: Grove, 1998.
Singh, Robert. The Farrakhan Phenomenon: Race, Reaction, and the Paranoid Style in American Politics. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1997.
White, Vibert. Inside the Nation of Islam: A Historical and Personal Testimony by a Black Muslim. Gainesville, Fla.: University Press of Florida, 2001.