James Baldwin And Elijah Muhammad On The Nation Of Islam

2376 words - 10 pages

The Nation of Islam

On October 7, 1897 in Sandersville, Georgia, a woman named Marie Poole gave birth to a boy who she named Elijah. Elijah’s parents were sharecroppers, and this father was a Baptist minister (Black Supremacists, 25). After an eighth grade education, in 1931, Elijah Poole moved to Detroit where, he says, he met “Allah in person”. This was a man named Fard Muhammad—“The first and only man born in Mecca who came to America for the express purpose of teaching the so-called Negro” (Mr. Muhammad Speaks, 103). Elijah studied under Fard Muhammad, after which, he acquired a new title and sense of purpose. Since then, Elijah referred to himself as “Elijah Muhammad, the messenger of Allah, to the Lost-Found Nation of Islam in North America” (Mr. Muhammad Speaks, 100). Elijah Muhammad’s own words state his new purpose very well, “I am doing all I can to make the so-called Negroes see that the white race and its religion, Christianity, are their open enemies” (Mr. Muhammad Speaks, 100). Elijah Muhammad, put quite bluntly, was a psychopath. His ideals parallel those of Adolf Hitler, leader of the Third Reich, the man most directly responsible for the systematic torture and annihilation of millions of innocent people during the Second World War. Elijah Muhammad’s ideals, taught through his cult, the Nation of Islam, are extreme, irrational, racist, and truly evil.

On November 17, 1962, 65 years after the birth of Elijah Muhammad, the New Yorker published an article written by James Baldwin called “Letter from a Region in My Mind. This article is an edited version of one of his now-famous essays, “Down at the Cross”. In this essay, Baldwin describes the encounter he had with Elijah Muhammad. During one summer, when Baldwin was in Chicago, Elijah Muhammad invited James Baldwin to his home for dinner. During the meal, Elijah Muhammad asked James Baldwin to join his cause and become a member of the Nation of Islam. Baldwin indirectly hinted that he didn’t want to become a member of the Nation of Islam. Baldwin said that he “left the church twenty years ago and [he hasn’t] joined anything since” (Baldwin, 327). He told Muhammad that he was a writer and that he likes “doing things alone” (Baldwin, 327). The decision to not join the Nation of Islam is one of the main foci of “Down at the Cross”. And while the reasons he vocalized to Muhammad aren’t bad, it goes without saying that nobody would decline membership to such a powerful organization, offered by the leader himself, just because they “like doings things alone”. Elijah Muhammad was insane. His teachings were evil and racist. And having a thorough knowledge of what exactly the Nation of Islam was helps explain why James Baldwin truly made the decision he made.

After his encounter with Fard Muhammad, Elijah Muhammad founded his first temple in Detroit, and then moved to Chicago where he set up the headquarters for the Nation of Islam. He was arrested for...

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