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Baldwin And The Nation Of Islam

1879 words - 8 pages

Baldwin and the Nation of Islam

The Nation of Islam impacted many African American people during its time. This Black Muslim nation not only requested, but demanded and required basic teachings which included racial separation, white devilry, and the coming Armageddon. None of these basic teachings supported James Baldwin’s perceptions. It was Baldwin’s view of pitying the white man for their lack of not being able to see through the color line and to embrace differences that whites and blacks held together to create a better, inexorable, and supreme nation. The Nation of Islam felt no pity for the whites or, as they would call them, devils. Neither would the Muslims embrace their differences from other races, but actually want to keep them divided. Although Baldwin is not confident as to where or to whom he belongs to, Baldwin is certain that a black nation separated from all other races will only separate blacks from the future of a better nation and keep them from further developing as a community.

Born in Georgia, the leader of the Nation of Islam was a man named Elijah Muhammad. He has often been portrayed as a saint by his peers, but during World War II, Elijah Muhammad expressed support for Japan, on the basis of its being a nonwhite country, and was jailed for sedition. On August 24, 1946 Muhammad was released from prison in Milan, Michigan. According to the journal named The Black Scholar by Claude Clegg, Muhammad’s time at Milan had done more for him than ever before and after his release, Muhammad had unquestionably become “the premier martyr of the Muslims” (Clegg 49). From his speeches on the radio and in newspapers, Muhammad was also thought of by many people as a fierce man, one of these people being Baldwin. On first meeting Muhammad, Baldwin reacted by saying “I [had] associated him with ferocity. But, no – the man who came into the room was small and slender, really very delicately put together, with a thin face, large, warm eyes, and a most winning smile” (Baldwin 323). Muhammad was a regular man that merely exuded confidence. He had a powerful air around him, because he meant every single word that escaped his mouth. As superior to the Islam movement, Muhammad helped integrate the movement’s demand within as many black communities as he could. He started out with implementing a grocery store in a nearby black community with nothing but Muslim employees. Then slowly came a restaurant and a bakery. Muhammad was well on his way to proving to blacks that they could accomplish their own needs without having “to demand [anything of] the white devil or resort to him” (Clegg 50). According to a New York Times article written by Peter Kihss from March 1, 1961, the movements demand was simply “Separation, not integration… land of our own” (Kihss-Negro Extremist Groups). The black nation of Islam wanted four or five states to be turned over as payment for 300 years of slave labor. This way blacks could more...

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