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ELIJAH MUHAMMAD

Religious Leader (1897-1975)

Elijah Muhammad was born in Sandersville, Georgia.  Indeed life in the rural South at the turn of the century was quite hard.  Poverty and survival were at war with each other.  Elijah Poole, the son of a minister and whose parents, William and Marie Poole, had 12 other children, had to quit school after barely finishing the third grade to work in the fields as a sharecropper so his family could eat.  Just before the roaring twenties came in.  Elijah Poole married the former Clara Evans, also of Georgia.  They had eight children, Emmanuel, Ethel, Lottie, Nathaniel, Herbert, Elijah Jr, Wallace, and Akbar. 

In April 1923, Elijah Poole moved his young family from Macon, Georgia. to Detroits' bustling upwardly mobile city with its burgeoning auto industry.  The stock market crash in 1929, was the gateway to economic misery that sparked the fuel of the "Great Depression" of the 1930s.  Moreover, America's racial situation continued its downward spiral.  Lynching, race riots and other forms of terrorism against Blacks continued unabated.  On July 4, 1930, Fard Muhammad appeared in this city.  He announced and preached that God is One, and it is now time for Blacks to return to the religion of their ancestors, Islam.  Elijah Poole's wife first learned of the Temple of Islam and wanted to attend to see what the commotion was all about, but instead, her husband advised her that he would go and see for himself. 

Hence, in 1931, after hearing his first lecture at the Temple of Islam, Elijah Poole was overwhelmed by the message and immediately accepted it.   Soon thereafter, Elijah Poole invited and convinced his entire family to accept the religion of Islam.  The Founder of the Nation of Islam gave him the name "Kariem" and made him a minister.  Later he was promoted to the position of "Supreme Minister" and his name was changed to Muhammad.  "The name 'Poole' was never my name," he would later write, "nor was it my father's name.  It was the name the white slave-master of my grandfather after the so-called freedom of my fathers." 

Mr. Muhammad quickly became an integral part of the Temple of Islam.  For the next three and on-half years, Mr. Muhammad was personally taught by his teacher nonstop.  The Muslim community, in addition to establishing religious centers of worship, he began to start businesses under the aegis of economic development that focuses on buying and selling between and among Black companies.  Mr. Muhammad established a newspaper, "The Final Call to Islam," in 1934, later changed to "Muhammad Speaks,"  This would be the first of many publications he would produce.  Meanwhile, Mr. Muhammad helped establish schools for the proper education of his children and the community.  Mr. Muhammad was drafted by US government when he was in his 40s.  He refused the induction and was sentenced to prison.  He served five years.

After World War II ended.  Mr. Muhammad won his release from prison and returned to Chicago.  From Chicago, the central point of the Nation of Islam, Mr. Muhammad expanded his membership drive to new heights.  Among the many new members enrolled in the ranks of Islam included Brother Malcolm X and his family.  During the 1950s, Mr. Muhammad promoted Min. Malcolm X to the post of National Spokesman, and began to syndicate his weekly newspaper column, "Mr. Muhammad Speaks," in Black newspapers across the country.  

Revised: July 18, 2013.