The Man and the Muslim
Louis Farrakhan was born in New York City in 1933. His birth name was Louis Eugene Walcott. He was raised in Boston, Massachusetts and worked as a calypso singer in the 1950's under the name of "The Charmer" (discography in dragoon's writeup.) In 1955 he met Malcolm X, through whom he was introduced to the Nation of Islam. At the urging of Malcolm he joined the organization and became a minister, dropping his last name to become Minister Louis X.
Farrakhan rose in power in the Nation of Islam quickly. In the 1960's, when a dispute arose between Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad (the Nation's leader) Farrakhan was an outspoken backer of Muhammad. After the assasination of Malcolm X, Farrakhan became the leader of a large mosque in New York City. He became a principal leader of the Nation of Islam until Elijah Muhammad's death in 1975. When Elijah's son Wallace assumed control of the Nation of Islam, he changed the group's focus from black separatism to fundamental, orthodox Islam. Farrakhan took issue with these changes and left the group, now called the Muslim American Society.
The Minister and the Demagogue
Farrakhan re-created the Nation of Islam under his own leadership, emphasizing black separatism and self-reliance for black people across America. Under his leadership the Nation grew phenomenally, building new mosques across the nation. Using messages of mistrust of whites and reliance on their own race, Farrakhan attracted many young blacks from urban areas to his cause. Political controversy surrounded Farrakhan. He was quoted as calling Judaism a "gutter religion" and Adolf Hitler "a great man". Many accused him of demagoguery and of using the influence of race to gain power for himself. Farrakhan continued despite these attacks, however, eventually organizing the 1995 Million Man March in Washington, D.C..
In 2000, after a long ordeal with prostate cancer, Farrakhan reemerged into the public eye with a reconciliation to Wallace Muhammad (now named Warith Deen Muhammad) the leader of the Muslim American Society. Pledging to adhere more strictly to orthodox Islam, Farrakhan nevertheless continues to be an advocate of black welfare and identity everywhere, and a leader to those who believe in his message.
Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2002.
http://encarta.msn.com © 1997-2002 Microsoft Corporation.
The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition.
Copyright © 2002 Columbia University Press.