The Nation of Islam

September 2015


In 1960, LIFE magazine assigned Eve Arnold, who died in January 2012 at the age of 99, to document the days and nights of Malcolm X, the controversial and intensely charismatic public face of the Nation of Islam.

At the very first NOI rally she attended, at the Uline Arena in Washington, D.C., Arnold photographed George Lincoln Rockwell, head of the American Nazi Party, who had forged an alliance with the Nation of Islam (and who, like Malcolm X, would be assassinated before the decade was over). Arnold — born into a Russian-Jewish family in Philadelphia in 1912 — wrote later that, as she raised her camera to photograph Rockwell and his brownshirt-clad henchmen, he hissed at her, “I’ll make a bar of soap out of you.”

 Excerpt from: LIFE Magazine: Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam: Eve Arnold’s Quietly Powerful Portraits by Nate Rawlings (2002)


George Lincoln Rockwell and members of the American Nazi Party attend a Nation of Islam summit in 1961. Photograph by Eve Arnold

George Lincoln Rockwell and members of the American Nazi Party attend a Nation of Islam summit in 1961. Photograph by Eve Arnold

Eve Arnold

Eve Arnold

Eve Arnold

Eve Arnold


Eve Arnold

Eve Arnold

 

 

Arnold’s work from her year spent with the Nation of Islam comprises a powerful mosaic illustrating the strength and energy of a new force in America — a force operating in tandem with the era’s young, increasingly mainstream Civil Rights movement, but with utterly divergent aims and tactics.

 

At the very center of her portrait of the Black Muslim movement is Malcolm X, who Arnold described as kind, gracious and incredibly helpful to her in her work.When Arnold submitted her photographs to LIFE, an editor initially rejected them on the grounds that the Black Muslims were not well known.

 

Excerpt from: LIFE Magazine: Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam: Eve Arnold’s Quietly Powerful Portraits by Nate Rawlings (2002)


Eve Arnold

Eve Arnold

Eve Arnold

Eve Arnold

Eve Arnold

Eve Arnold

Eve Arnold

Eve Arnold


In summing up the experience of spending so much time in such close contact with Malcolm X at the height of his riveting career, Arnold wrote that she was “privileged to work with one of the most dynamic leaders of the century.”

LIFE Magazine: Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam: Eve Arnold’s Quietly Powerful Portraits by Nate Rawlings (2002)


Eve Arnold

Eve Arnold

Eve Arnold

Eve Arnold

Eve Arnold

Eve Arnold

Eve Arnold

Eve Arnold

Eve Arnold

Eve Arnold

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Associated Press

Associated Press


 Unknown Photographer

 Unknown Photographer

 

 

 

Betty churned with rage, grief, and despair in her early widowhood. The beasts had slunk from their pit and robbed her of her hero, provider, and spiritual counselor. They had robbed her children of their father, her family of its patriarch. They had crushed hope, smeared truth, and destroyed her belief in humankind. “I lost faith in a lot of people,” she later said. “Not just white people—black people and people of all colors.”

Malcolm had warned that bitterness only debilitates. Wrath, he had counseled, would sap her creativity and devour her joy. But in the month after his death, she could find neither the weapons nor the will with which to fight. She expected her boiling insides to consume her. Or, she imagined, the toxic air itself would do her in.

Excerpt from The Hajj of Betty Shabazz 50 Years Later (Betty Shabazz Surviving Malcolm X) by Russell J. Rickford


A. Abbas

A. Abbas

Robert Sengstacke

Robert Sengstacke


Associated Press

Associated Press

 

 

 

 

Black Muslim leaders and Muhammad Ali, the former heavyweight boxing champion, denounced the Rev. Jesse Jackson today for associating with the Rev. Louis Farrakhan, leader of a Black Muslim sect. 

Mr. Ali attacked the news media as implying Mr. Farrakhan's views against Jews and Israel were held by all Muslims. ''I'm not with Farrakhan - none of these people are with Farrakhan,'' he said, referring to himself and the other Black Muslims at a news conference in front of the home of Frederick Douglass, the 19th century abolitionist.

Excerpt from NY Times: Several Black Muslims Denounce Farrakhan (1984)


Roger Malloch

Roger Malloch

Thomas Hoepker

Thomas Hoepker

Thomas Hoepker

Thomas Hoepker


"What he teaches is not all what we believe in," Mr. Muhammad said. "We believe that Jews, Christians and Muslims share an affinity, we believe in one and the same God, we represent one humanity."

Excerpt from NY Times: Several Black Muslims Denounce Farrakhan (1984)


                                                                  Roger Malloch

                                                                  Roger Malloch


The Black Muslim movement was founded in this country 50 years ago. Its longtime leader was Elijah Muhammad, father of W. Deen Muhammad. After his father's death in 1975, Mr. Muhammad moved away from the religion's separatist doctrines, which he considered contrary to Islamic teachings. The sect now claims 100,000 active members. 

When Mr. Farrakhan split he took several thousand followers with him and retained the separatist doctrine. He refuses to say exactly how many adherents his sect has.

Excerpt from NY Times: Several Black Muslims Denounce Farrakhan (1984)


Gordon Parks

Gordon Parks

Roger Malloch

Roger Malloch


.... In Harlem


Richard Kalvar

Richard Kalvar

 

More than two dozen black men, many dressed in work boots and baggy slacks and a few in business suits with briefcases at their sides, recently climbed the steep concrete stairs to Muhammad's Mosque No. 7 in Harlem in search of two things the Nation of Islam promised they could find inside: brotherhood and proper direction.

Excerpt from NY Times: Manhood Training at the Mosque - Hope, Discipline, Defiance (1994)


Robert Sengstacke

Robert Sengstacke


There are no onion domes or gilded Islamic iconography here -- only a modest, hand-lettered sign outside a third-floor window indicates that this is a place of Islamic work and worship, the latest incarnation of a flagship Nation of Islam mosque that was largely built by Malcolm X and has been led for more than a decade by Louis Farrakhan.

Mr. Muhammad said that a typical session attracted 200 men and that the program enabled the mosque to reach people who were not already believers, people in the broader black and Hispanic community, "to help our people in these communities to organize themselves."

The training program is one reason that in expanding black circles the Harlem mosque -- the nerve center of Nation of Islam activities in New York -- is becoming a landmark of hope and defiance. Many blacks in Harlem and throughout the New York metropolitan region say they see it as a factory in which men and women, whether troubled by drugs or criminality or simply uncertainty, can be retooled into community assets.

Excerpt from NY Times: Manhood Training at the Mosque - Hope, Discipline, Defiance (1994)


Robert Sengstacke

Robert Sengstacke

Robert Sengstacke

Robert Sengstacke



 

 

 

 

Malcolm X, who became a Muslim while serving a prison sentence, was an early minister of the Nation of Islam's mosque in New York. Alex Haley's 1964 book, "The Autobiography of Malcolm X," says that in the summer of 1954 the temple was hardly more than a "little storefront." 

But by raiding the congregations of some of the city's black churches, Malcolm X began to build a large following in Harlem. A few months after he left the Nation in 1964 for a more orthodox brand of Islam and was assassinated by Nation of Islam followers, Louis Farrakhan was named minister.

Excerpt from NY Times: Manhood Training at the Mosque - Hope, Discipline, Defiance (1994)

  Henri Cartier-Bresson


Bruce Davidson

Bruce Davidson

Bruce Davidson

Bruce Davidson

Bruce Davidson

Bruce Davidson


At the Mosque 

Several members of the Nation of Islam and their supporters met to discuss the incident last night at Sylvia's Restaurant, at Lenox Avenue and 126th Street. Like Mr. Bratton, they demanded answers. Contradicting much of the account given by the Commissioner, they attributed the incident entirely to the police, who they said had entered the mosque during services. 

"The police violated their own regulations, went in without proper personnel, had their guns drawn," said C. Vernon Mason, a lawyer representing the Nation of Islam. "Women and children were there. They attacked members of the mosque."

After a brief brawl, the confrontation Sunday at Muhammad's Mosque at 2033 Fifth Avenue became a standoff, as the congregation retreated into the third-floor mosque. 

Excerpt from NY Times: Eight Officers Hurt in Clash at Harlem Mosque (1994)


Jack Smith/New York Daily News

Photographer Unknown


The policy grew out of an incident on April 14, 1972, similar to Sunday's disturbance. In the 1972 episode, in response to a fake call of an officer in trouble, the police raided Muhammad's Mosque No. 7, at 116th Street and Lenox Avenue. A fight ensued at the Nation of Islam mosque, an officer's gun was taken from him, and Officer Philip W. Cardillo was shot and killed. 

One Nation of Islam member was tried on murder charges and acquitted. Another's trial for assault ended in a mistrial and the charges were dropped. 

In response to the 1972 incident, the Police Department adopted a cautious policy on 17 "sensitive locations," including black Muslim mosques and meeting places for such militant groups as the Black Panthers. The policy, intended to prevent confrontation, called for officers not to enter the designated locations until a commander was on the scene. Officials said they did not know how many locations carried the designation now.

Excerpt from NY Times: Eight Officers Hurt in Clash at Harlem Mosque (1994)



Faith

Black Muslims worked for the elimination of illicit drugs and alcohol in the black community and among prison populations and were often much misunderstood. One way Black Muslims tried to implement the principle of self-help was to establish businesses and profitable cooperative farms in the South. In 1970, their efforts fell victim to touristic attacks. By the 1980's, Georgia prison officials no longer feared Muslims, because their faith, with its strong self-discipline, made them model inmates. 

The Muslim faith continued to grow. In the late 1980s, there were an estimated 20,000 Muslims in Atlanta, and 90 percent of them were black. 

Excerpt from: The Way it was in the South: The Black Experience in Georgia by Donald Lee Grant


Matt Weber

Matt Weber

Photographer Unknown

Photographer Unknown


"I believe in Islam because it teaches us there can be no conflict between the word of Allah and the work of Allah."

Excerpt from Black Muslim Religion in the Nation of Islam (1960-1975) 


Robert Sengstacke

Francois Le Diascorn


Salaam

In a style as grand and audacious as its leader, the Nation of Islam opened a new $5 million restaurant complex on Chicago's South Side today. The opening marked a return to the food service business that helped establish the Nation, the black Muslim religious sect, as a steady economic presence in African-American neighborhoods across the country in the 1960's and 1970's.

With its landmark yellow star and crescent rising from a 90-foot rooftop pole, the sand-colored restaurant stands in stark contrast to the surrounding neighborhood of brick-and-concrete buildings pockmarked with boarded storefronts and empty lots and dotted with mom-and-pop shops. It is a tough, predominantly black neighborhood of gang conflicts and drug deals, one that most developers have turned their backs on. Diane Ivy, who lives three blocks from the restaurant, got to peek through the doors Monday, and it was enough to whet her appetite.

Excerpt from NY Times: Bean Pies Have Grand New Home (1995)

Photographer Unknown


"It's beautiful," she said of the building, who's construction she had watched for years. "It makes you want to get dressed up to eat bean pie."

Excerpt from NY Times: Bean Pies Have Grand New Home (1995)


Winta Yohannes

Winta Yohannes



Judging from the publicity surrounding the opening, it seems as if Salaam, whose name means "peace" in Arabic, is not just a restaurant; it is a movement by the organization and its leader, the minister Louis Farrakhan, to broaden the Nation's reach beyond its membership and other parts of the black population.

Excerpt from NY Times: Bean Pies Have Grand New Home (1995)


            Robert Sengstacke

            Robert Sengstacke

 

 

Minister Louis Farrakhan proudly describes the location of the Nation of Islam's new Salaam Palace of the People as "the heart of the ghetto." In a community where the only competition is two fast-food chicken outlets, Salaam combines three operations under one mosque-like roof: a fast-food restaurant, a buffet and an elegant dining room robed in cherrywood, marble and brass.

Between vitriolic speeches that advocate black self-sufficiency and excoriate whites and Jews, at a time when he has been a target of an alleged assassination-for-hire plot, congressional hearings and media investigations, Farrakhan found time to oversee the recent opening of Salaam.

Excerpt from LA Times: Dateline Chicago Islam Brings Fine Dining to Ghetto (1995)


Robert Sengstacke

Robert Sengstacke

Robert Sengstacke

Robert Sengstacke


Unknown Photographer

When Malcolm X was assassinated nearly 30 years ago in a Harlem ballroom, his 4 1/2-year-old daughter, Qubilah Bahiyah Shabazz, was there and watched her father die in a hail of gunfire.

Yesterday, Ms. Shabazz, 34, was arrested in Minneapolis on Federal charges of trying to hire a hit man to kill her father's Muslim disciple turned bitter rival, Louis Farrakhan, minister of the Nation of Islam, and a man her mother believes was involved in Malcolm X's murder.

Her mother, Dr. Betty Shabazz, said last night that her daughter was framed, The Associated Press reported. "It is unfortunate that anyone would do that to a young woman," she said. "And it says how quick people are and how they will do anything to get their political ends."

Excerpt from NY Times: Daughter of Malcolm X Charged With Trying to Kill Farrakhan (1995)


Jim Bourg

Jim Bourg

Bettmann/Corbis

Bettmann/Corbis


For three decades, mystery and myth have surrounded the death of Malcolm X in the Audubon Ballroom and what role, if any, Mr. Farrakhan played on that bloody Sunday afternoon, Feb. 21, 1965.

Excerpt from NY Times: Daughter of Malcolm X Charged With Trying to Kill Farrakhan (1995)



       Jamel Shabazz

       Jamel Shabazz

 

 

 

Mr. Farrakhan has long denied any role in his former mentor's murder and has never been charged. 

But in recent years, he has often expressed regret at creating what he called a violent "climate" that hovered over Malcolm X during the last year of his life, following his bitter break with the Nation of Islam and its founder, Elijah Muhammad.

Excerpt from NY Times: Daughter of Malcolm X Charged With Trying to Kill Farrakhan (1995)


John H. White

John H. White

John H.White

John H.White

John H. White

John H. White

John H. White

John H. White


Until two weeks ago, Intelligent Tarref Allah, a 27-year-old Brooklyn native convicted of murder in 1995, was just a gang member in prison asking for special treatment. 

For years, New York State prison officials would not allow Mr. Allah -- who is known to inmates and guards by his new legal first name, Intelligent, or Intel -- to openly practice what he describes as his religion, central tenets of which encourage self-analysis, meditation and a black supremacist message. 

Mr. Allah is a Five Percenter, part of a black militant group that broke from the Nation of Islam in the 1960's. The New York State prison system has long regarded it as a violence-prone gang, much as the system also regards the Latin Kings, Crips or the Aryan Brotherhood. 

Excerpt from NY Times: Inmates are Free to Practice Black Supremacist in New York, a Judge Rules (2003)

                    Jolie Stahl         

                    Jolie Stahl         

                    Jolie Stahl

                    Jolie Stahl


The name derives from the concept that only 5 percent of the world's people break free from the worship of a false "mystery God" and become gods to themselves and their families.

Excerpt from NY Times: Inmates are Free to Practice Black Supremacist in New York, a Judge Rules (2003)


 Rowland Scherman

 Rowland Scherman


But on July 31, Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald of Federal District Court in Manhattan ruled that Mr. Allah is entitled to the same religious freedoms as the thousands of practicing Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hare Krishnas and Wiccans incarcerated in New York State's prisons. 

In the universe of prisoners' rights, the ruling was groundbreaking because it would force state prison officials to allow Five Percenters, whom observers see as an extremist group, to have access to the literature and carry out the rituals of what they say is their religion, the Nation of Gods and Earths.

Excerpt from NY Times: Inmates are Free to Practice Black Supremacist in New York, a Judge Rules (2003)


Unknown Photographer

Unknown Photographer


''I expect a sense of nationhood will come out of this decision, as opposed to just me living as an individual having knowledge of self,'' Mr. Allah said from his cell at Eastern Correctional Facility, in Ulster County, responding through his lawyer, Ms. Viola, to written questions. 

''I feel like a cloak of anonymity has been removed,'' Mr. Allah went on, ''and the D.O.C.S. officers and officials will be able to see that inmates that they think are upright are actually members of the Nation and this will change their perception of the Nation.''

Excerpt from NY Times: Inmates are Free to Practice Black Supremacist in New York, a Judge Rules (2003)


Reem Al Faisal

Reem Al Faisal

Reem Al Faisal

Reem Al Faisal

 

Million Man March


In a moving display of pride and mutual support, hundreds of thousands of black men stood shoulder to shoulder in a crowd that stretched from the Capitol to the Washington Monument and beyond Monday as speakers at the "Million Man March" urged them to dedicate their lives to curing the ills afflicting black America.

Basking in the racial solidarity of attending the largest gathering of African Americans in the nation's history, participants embraced each other and the march's theme of "atonement" to create an event significantly different from civil rights protests of the past.

As many of the speakers and numerous participants made clear, Monday's assemblage was sharply focused on what black men should do for themselves, not what others should do for them. Unlike past Washington demonstrations--such as the historic 1963 March on Washington, where 250,000 people heard Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s passionate "I have a dream" speech--few of Monday's speakers appealed to government for help.

Excerpt from LA Times: Million Man March (1995)


Eli Reed

Eli Reed

Eli Reed

Eli Reed

Eli Reed

Eli Reed

Eli Reed

Eli Reed

Eli Reed

Eli Reed


The march's primary organizer, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, delivered a searing demand for self-discipline in a more than two-hour speech at the end of the day.

Excerpt from LA Times: Million Man March (1995)


Leonard Freed

Leonard Freed

                                                                  Leonard Freed

                                                                  Leonard Freed

Leonard Freed

Leonard Freed

Leonard Freed

Leonard Freed

David Alan Harvey

David Alan Harvey

David Alan Harvey

David Alan Harvey

David Alan Harvey

David Alan Harvey


Eli Reed

Eli Reed

 

 

 

Although the march had become ensnarled in a controversy that divided both blacks and whites, primarily because of Farrakhan, the day's events were marked by messages of peace, reverence, celebration and optimism.

Even Farrakhan suggested the time might have come for him to sit down with leaders of the Jewish community, whom he has denounced as "bloodsuckers" and who have denounced him as anti-Semitic.

Farrakhan brushed aside criticism of his role in the march, saying he had divine guidance.

"Whether you like it or not, God brought the idea through me, and he didn't bring it through me because my heart was dark with hatred and anti-Semitism," he said.

Excerpt from LA Times: Million Man March (1995)


"If my heart was that dark, how is the message so bright?"

Excerpt from LA Times: Million Man March (1995)


Viviane Moos

Viviane Moos

Viviane Moos

Viviane Moos

James Leynse

James Leynse

Joey Nigh

Joey Nigh

Joshua Roberts

Joshua Roberts

Jacques M Chenet

Jacques M Chenet


                Joey Nigh

                   James Leynse


James Leynse

James Leynse