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Elijah Muhammad, born

Elijah Muhummad was born Elijah Poole in Sandersville,

Georgia as one of 13 children of tenant farmers who

were former slaves. At the age of 16 he left home

and traveled about America. In 1923 he finally

settled in Detroit, Mich. where he worked at an

automobile factory. In the early 1930s, a time of

severe economic distress, he became acquainted

with a W.D. Fard (Wali Farad, Master Farad

Muhammad) and his life changed forever. Fard,

then working as a peddler, had already established

his Temple of Islam in Detroit. The beliefs taught by

Fard though similar to "orthodox" Islam, spoke

directly to Black people and attempted to meet

their needs. It called for complete Black separation

from whites whom it viewed as the sworn enemies

of Blacks and humanity. The Nation of Islam

demanded Black independence in economics,

religion, and nationhood. The teachings of the NOI

regularly denounced Black men especially for

drinking, gambling, physical abuse of Black

woman, moral wrongs, and the inability to protect

one's family from attacks by violent white America.

Upon Fard's disappearance in 1934, Elijah

Muhammad became the successor to the NOI and

became Supreme Minister. The teachings of the

NOI and Elijah Muhammad would have a profound

impact on Black American life. In a small amount

of time the small organization became well known

throughout the United States, buying land, opening

businesses, and increasing its growth. Its strict

moral discipline, devout religious adherence,

healthy lifestyle, and seemingly miraculous ability

to convert even the most corrupt individuals, drew

many to its ranks. One of those that Elijah would

bring into the light was an ex-convict who the world

would know as Malcolm X. Elijah would gain world

recognition as his teachings were spread through

his still well read book, Message to the Black Man.

With the death of Elijah Muhammad in 1975, the

NOI went through a brief period of upheaval. Under

the guidance of his son, Wallace Muhammad, the

NOI was moved into the mainstream of "orthodox"

Islam and even began to accept white members.

Such shifts away from the original Black Nationalist

religious teachings of Eligh Muhammad, soon

caused a split within the organization. It was not

long before splinter groups emerged to once again

carry on Elijah's teachings. Though they number

quite a few, the most well known are most likely

the more "street-based" 5% Nation of Islam and the

Nation of Islam under Minister Louis Farrakhan.

The NOI under Minister Louis Farrakhan has been

a driving force in Black Nationalistic political

thought since the 1980s. Most noticeably, it was

instrumental in the calling and organizing of the

now historic Million Man March of 1995. Through

the decades Elijah Muhammad's messages of

self-help, self-sufficiency, self-defense, and self-love

have shaped deeply the path of Black Nationalism

and to a lesser degree Pan-Africanism. His legacy

continues today as his teachings create converts

throughout America and the Black world.

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