Admiration For Elijah Muhammad Reached Far Beyond His Students And Followers
October 7 marks the date that many followers and students of Elijah Muhammad celebrate the anniversary of his birth, sending out birthday wishes each year to their teacher via social media and other platforms.
Born Oct. 7, 1897, Muhammad was the self-proclaimed messenger of Allah who led the Nation of Islam from 1934 until his death in 1975.
But we would like to point out the kind words or praises others have given Elijah Muhammad in the past who weren’t necessarily his followers or students but admirers or witnesses of his work in Black America.
In the early 1960s, the popular magazine Reader’s Digest called him “the most powerful Black man in America.”
In 1962, American author and social critic James Baldwin wrote in his No. 1 bestseller, “The Fire Next Time,” the following:
“Elijah Muhammad has been able to do what generations of welfare workers and committees and resolutions and reports and housing projects and playgrounds have failed to do: To heal and redeem drunkards and junkies, to convert people who came out of prison and to keep them out; to make men chaste and women virtuous and to invest both the male and the female with a pride and serenity that hang about them like an unfailing light. He has done all these things, which our Christian church has spectacularly failed to do.”
Are you interested in getting smart on Life Insurance?
No Doctor Visit Required, Get Policy for as low as $30 per Month
Click here to take the next step
In 1976, Alex Haley, author of “Roots” and collaborator on “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” said, “If I had to pick the single person who has been the most important figure for blacks in the black thrust from post-World War ll, I would unequivocally pick Elijah Muhammad. Because it was he who….was like a lightning bolt in opening up the consciousness of black people…from this just blank psychic wall of just total fear of the structure in which we lived. And I am saying these things clinically.” (Black Scholar, Vol. 8, No. 1, September, 1976 p. 37-38)
George Schuyler, a Black conservative, wrote in the Pittsburgh Courier, “Mr. Muhammad may be a rogue … but when anyone can get tens of thousands of Negroes to practice economic solidarity, respect their women, alter their atrocious diet, give up liquor, stop crime and juvenile delinquency and adultery, he is doing more for Negros’ welfare than any current leader I know.”
In 2003, Molefi Kete Asante, a scholar, professor and chairman of African American studies at Temple University, Philadelphia, selected the Honorable Elijah Muhammad as one of the 100 Greatest African Americans. Dr. Asante said his selection criteria represented the general will of African American people and not necessarily popularity or wealth — that the broad struggle for justice and equality matters most to African Americans. His criteria were:
• Significance in the general movement of African Americans towards full equality.
• Self-sacrifice and undertaking of risk for the collective good.
• Unusual will and determination in the face of the greatest danger and against the most stubborn odds.
• A consistent posture toward the social, cultural and economic uplifting of African American people.
• Personal achievement that calls attention to the capability and genius of African American people.
Dr. Claude Andrew Clegg III, a specialist in the history of the African diaspora in the Americas at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, said this about Elijah Muhammad:
“I think Elijah’s biggest legacy, biggest significance is that he makes Blackness respectable among African Americans. He kind of sells black people to themselves. He rejuvenates people’s sense of pride, self-esteem and their pride in their racial and cultural heritage. Also the economic initiate of the Nation of Islam – largely lower class people – pulling their resources together to buy a major newspaper printing press, farmland, grocery stores, a jet, a bank, etc.; creating an economic model of self-help by people who had never owned or contributed to such.
“Also there is a moral significance although there were contradictions in his life and behavior.
“The moral message of the Nation of Islam: don’t beat your wife, don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t eat pork, don’t do drugs, clean up your neighborhoods, hold a steady job, and don’t get on welfare. I think that moral message created boundaries for those who did not have and needed structure. Finally, I think the significance of the Nation of Islam is that it introduced African Americans to an alternative religious vision outside of Christianity. If Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam had never existed I don’t think Islam would be the kind of force it is in some American cities and urban areas it is today. So, making people aware of the Eastern faith of Islam, although Elijah Muhammad taught a very peculiar style of Islam, I think is very significant.”
More on Elijah Muhammad:
Watch this video for more by Dr. Claude Andrew Clegg on Elijah Muhammad’s economics:
Watch this video for more by historian Dr. John Henrik Clarke on Elijah Muhammad:
Dr. Amos Wilson, a theoretical psychologist, social theorist, pan-African thinker, scholar, author and professor of psychology who taught at the City University of New York, said “Elijah Muhammad was the greatest psychologist that black people have ever created…”
Watch this video for more on the importance and impact of Elijah Muhammad.
“You thought Elijah Muhammad was hard when he dictated your diet and tastes – but your tastes had already been dictated to you by the Europeans!”
Dr Amos Wilson
Watch this video for the entire lecture by Dr. Amos Wilson on Elijah Muhammad:
Watch this video with Dick Gregory, a comedian, civil rights leader and vegetarian activist on Elijah Muhammad and diet:
Civil rights movement organizer Kwame Ture said this about Elijah Muhammad:
“The Honorable Elijah Muhammad had a great effect on me. I will always defend the Honorable Elijah Muhammad because the truth can smash a million lies.”
Watch this video for more by Kwame Ture on Elijah Muhammad.
Rann Miller is the director of anti-bias and DEI initiatives as well as a high school social studies teacher for a school district located in Southern New Jersey. He’s also a freelance writer and founder of the Urban Education Mixtape, supporting urban educators and parents of students in urban schools. He is the author of the upcoming book, Resistance Stories from Black History for Kids, with an anticipated release date of February 2023. You can follow him on Twitter @UrbanEdDJ .