Right in the presence of the onslaught by white supremacists in enslaving, killing and hampering the advancement of Black people in America, one group emerged to safeguard the interest of melanated people.
That group is the Nation of Islam (NOI). It was birthed by Wallace D. Fard Muhammad on July 4, 1930, however, the mystic Fard was not to be seen again by June 1934.
Elijah Muhammad would assume leadership of the group working tirelessly to open more mosques, outlets or what they called temples to worship and to bond as there was strength in numbers.
It was Elijah Muhammad and the NOI which offered crucial direction to an angry and purposeless Malcolm X, who emerged as one of the notable and brilliant operatives of the group. Malcolm was adopted into the Nation of Islam in 1952 only breaking out in 1964, having served as the face of the group for years.
The fiery man born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska, spent his teenage years living in a series of foster homes following his father’s death and his mother’s hospitalization. He soon was sentenced to ten years in prison in 1946 for larceny as well as breaking and entering. It was in prison he was adopted into the NOI setting him on path of greatness.
His fallout with Elijah Muhammad over claims he was indiscriminately sleeping with female members of the nation and getting them pregnant despite preaching piousness was a major incident and drew critical attention, the nation didn’t welcome. His eventual assignation on February 21, 1965, at the hands of three NOI members stunned many and drew some disaffection for the group.
Louis Farrakhan Sr., who is the current leader of the Nation’s sour comments on Malcolm’s killing reflected poorly on him and the group, nonetheless upon Elijah’s death in 1975 and his son Warith Deen Mohammed’s attempt to bring the group into the Sunni Muslim body, Farrakhan in 1981 rallied the people and officially adopted the name “Nation of Islam”, reviving the group on the principles of Elijah Mohammad as well as establishing the headquarters at Mosque Maryam. He has since been in charge of the group.
However, it’s Clara Muhammad (November 2, 1899 – August 12, 1972), first wife of Elijah whom we shine a light on today.
Born Clara Evans in Macon, Georgia, she changed her name to Clara Poole having met Elijah before his conversion then again to Clara Mohammed when he relegated his Poole for Mohammad.
The pair married in Georgia in 1917 and from 1917 to 1939, birthed eight children: six boys and two girls, including Warith Deen Muhammad.
Interestingly, Clara known as the First Lady of the Nation of Islam is credited with introducing her husband to the teachings of Nation of Islam founder W.D. Fard.
And when her husband had to flee from 1935 to 1946 because of death threats from rival temple leaders as well as got incarcerated for sedition during World War II, she was the one who held the fort for 10 good years offering leadership and ensuring the organization did not disintegrate.
It was Clara who helped establish and run the University of Islam and Muslim Girls Training schools which provided education for NOI members’ children but even here police in Detroit, Michigan and Chicago, Illinois reckoned the children were being indoctrinated and radicalized so organized swoops to disrupt classes often facing off with angry parents.
Clara’s life as a woman of faith in God and as for freedom fighter is exemplary as is her love and devotion to her husband and family.
Despite emerging from a poor background, Clara Mohammad managed to have a lasting impact on women, education and Muslim leaders spanning five generations influencing the largest identifiable community of Muslims in the United States of America.
It’s reported that Clara having heard Master Fard speak, led her husband to the mystic whereupon she was asked by the Founder to promise if the child she was carrying turned out to be boy that she would nurture him to be a great help to his father, a pledge to which she saw through.
Clara was the first official member and teacher of women in the MGT&GCC (Muslim Girls Training and General Civilization Class). It was the first official class for Muslim women. She was also the primary motivator behind the pioneering University of Islam Schools established by the Founder. The school began in her home with her children.
Clara was personally responsible for bringing the Qur’an into the American penal system now called correctional institutions. Little wonder then that she is regarded as an exemplary model of integrity, grace, elegance and perseverance for women particularly Muslim African American women.
Clara Muhammad died on August 12, 1972 after a long bout with stomach cancer.