Farrakhan, Louis (1933– )

views updated


Louis Farrakhan was born Louis Eugene Walcott on 11 May 1933 in the Bronx, New York. He attended Winston-Salem Teachers College in North Carolina from 1951 to 1953, where he majored in English. He joined the Nation of Islam in 1955.

The Nation of Islam is a community of African Americans formed in the 1930s. The community's spiritual identity is Islam, and its political identity is black nationalism. Louis Farrakhan joined the Nation of Islam because of the message of community and the coherence of faith offered by the community in the face of white American racism and violence against blacks in the Jim Crow era. After the death in 1975 of Elijah Muhammad, the community's founder and leader for over forty years, his son Warithudeen Muhammad changed the philosophical base from black nationalism to the global philosophy of Islam. He also enhanced the spiritual identity in Islam. This move into orthodox Islam caused a breach in the leadership in the Nation of Islam and its collapse. In 1977 Louis Farrakhan reestablished the Nation of Islam with black nationalism as its philosophy and Islam as its spiritual identity.

Between 1953 and 1956 Farrakhan worked as a club singer and musician. He is married to Khadijah (née Betsy Ross), with whom he has had nine children. In 1979 Farrakhan established the newspaper The Final Call (whose name is derived from the message in the Qur˒an 74:38), and in 1981 he held the first national convention of the Resurrected Nation (a name used briefly to describe the Nation of Islam). On Savior's Day, 26 February 1989, the community that Farrakhan founded inaugurated the National Center, named Mosque Maryam in honor of black womanhood, in Chicago. During the 1990s Minister Farrakhan was embroiled in a number of controversies: with the American Jewish community over alleged anti-Semitism, with other Muslims over the ideology of the Nation of Islam, and with many others over the black nationalist stance of the Nation of Islam.

During the 1990s Minister Farrakhan embarked on a steady program to reestablish the Nation of Islam as an African American Sunni Muslim community. This process continues today, and the Nation of Islam is recognized as a member of the world community of Islam.

See alsoAmerican Culture and Islam ; Malcolm X ; Muhammad, Elijah ; Nation of Islam ; United States, Islam in the .


Farrakhan, Louis. A Torchlight for America. Chicago: FCN Publishing, 1993.

Muhammad, Elijah. Message to the Blackman in America. Chicago: Muhammad Mosque of Islam No. 2, 1965.

Aminah Beverly McCloud