Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam: Separatism, Regendering, and a Secular Approach to Black Power after Malcolm X (1965–1975)

  • Ula Taylor


Why would anyone become a member of the Nation of Islam after the assassination of Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz) on February 21, 1965, in New York’s Audubon Ballroom? More than any other leader, Malcolm X stood at the ideological vortex in the dynamic movement for black liberation. His fiercely smart rhetoric helped to shift the dominant political struggle from a strategy of civil rights liberalism to eclectic expressions of black nationalism. As the most charismatic and visible spokesperson for the Nation of Islam, Malcolm moved beyond the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s (the Nation of Islam’s undisputed leader from 1934 to 1975) call for economic self-sufficiency and his prophecy of divine intervention to a paradigm of activist nationalism. Combining an application of armed self-defense “by any means necessary” (in a political climate that hosted racist government repression in the form of the state police) along with a lethal critique of white folks as “devils,” Malcolm appealed to the most socially isolated, politically dispossessed, and economically desperate members of the black proletariat. It was Malcolm’s undivided commitment to create a powerful group of “believers” in the Nation of Islam that resulted in a substantial membership increase. In 1955, there were only 16 temples largely located in the urban North, but by 1960 over 50 temples were sprinkled throughout the United States with registered membership estimated between 50,000 and 250,000.1


Black Woman Economic Freedom Black Student Black People Black Panther Party 
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Copyright information

© Jeanne Theoharis and Komozi Woodard, with Matthew Countryman 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ula Taylor

There are no affiliations available

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