An Original Man: The Life and Times of Elijah Muhammad

Claude Clegg, Author, Claude Clegg, Editor
Claude Clegg, Author, Claude Clegg, Editor St. Martin's Press $25.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-312-15184-3
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
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The figures of Malcolm X and Louis Farrakhan have dominated recent studies of the Nation of Islam and its history. Yet little attention has focused on Elijah Muhammad, the leader largely responsible for shaping the thought of and providing direction for the Nation of Islam. Clegg, a professor of history at North Carolina A&T, here offers the first in-depth biography of Elijah Muhammad. Born in Georgia, Elijah Poole very early manifested an interest in religion, and he often engaged in theological debates with his ""jackleg"" preacher father on the Monday mornings after his father's Sunday sermons. Poole's religious sensibility was challenged by the brutality of the lynchings he witnessed in his Georgia town, and at 26 he left for Detroit, ""having seen enough of the white man's brutality to last me for 26,000 years."" Clegg traces Poole's life as he became involved in Fard Muhammad's Nation of Islam and gained authority and respect as a leader within the Nation. Taking the name Elijah Muhammad, the former Poole used the ideological combination of black nationalism, Islamic theology and Garveyism to establish the great power of his Nation of Islam and to lead it with an iron hand for 40 years. Clegg relies on interviews with two of Muhammad's sons as well as newly declassified FBI documents for this biography. In his discussions of Elijah Muhammad's rejection of non-Islamic Africans as uncivilized and of the ways in which Muhammand's conservative religious lifestyles separated him from the radical activities of other black separatist groups such as the Black Power Movement, Clegg provides glimpses into the life and genius of one of America's influential political and religious leaders. (Mar.)
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