Elijah Muhammad stood at the helm of the Nation of Islam for forty years, a religious organization that combined the teachings of Islam with a strong emphasis on morality and self-sufficiency for African-Americans.
Read on to learn more about the leader of the Nation of Islam, Elijah Muhammad:
1. Muhammad was born Elijah Robert Poole on October 7, 1897, in Sandersville, Ga. His father, William was a sharecropper and his mother, Mariah, was a domestic worker.
2. He had 13 siblings and by the fourth grade, he stopped school and began working numerous jobs to help out his family.
3. In 1917, Muhammad married Clara Evans. Together, the couple would have eight children.
4. By 1923, Muhammad had grown tired of the Jim Crow South ways. He moved his family to Detroit as part of the Great Migration.
5. Learned of the teachings of Marcus Garvey and became a member of the Universal Negro Improvement Association.
6. Muhammad met Wallace D. Fard, a salesman who had begun teaching African-Americans in the Detroit area about Islam. Fard’s teachings connected the principles of Islam with black nationalism–ideas that were attractive to Muhammad. He converted to Islam and changed his name from Robert Elijah Poole to Elijah Muhammad.
7. Muhammad took leadership of the Nation of Islam after Fard disappeared in 1934. He established Final Call to Islam, a news publication that helped spread the word of the organization.
8. The Muhammad University of Islam was founded to educate children.
9. Muhammad’s success was halted when he was imprisoned in 1942 for refusing to respond to a World War Two draft. Upon his release, he continued to spread the word, claiming that he was spreading Allah’s word and that Fard had been in fact, Allah.
10. Muhammad published two books, Message to the Black Man in 1965 and How to Eat to Live in 1972.
11. Muhammad mentored Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, and many other members of the Nation of Islam.
Elijah Muhammad died in 1975 of heart failure.