Teaching Students About Elijah Muhammad
Elijah Muhammad, born as Elijah Robert Poole on October 7, 1897, was an influential African-American religious leader, social activist, and prominent figure in the Nation of Islam. Teaching students about his life, teaching, and impact on the African-American community can be an enlightening and educational experience. This article explores essential components to consider when incorporating lessons about Elijah Muhammad into your curriculum.
Begin by discussing Muhammad’s childhood and early life experiences. Born in Sandersville, Georgia, he was the seventh of thirteen children in his family. Growing up during the era of segregation and racial discrimination in the United States cultivated his passion for empowering black people. In addition to addressing historical context regarding his upbringing, this section should also explore key events that shaped his worldview.
Introduction to the Nation of Islam
In 1931, after moving to Detroit, Michigan with his family to escape the economic struggles of the Great Depression, Elijah Poole encountered Wallace D. Fard Muhammad, founder of the Nation of Islam (NOI). Fard Muhammad became a mentor to Poole and provided him with an alternate perspective on race relations in America at that time. Discuss how this relationship led Poole to adopt a new name—Elijah Muhammad—and position within the NOI.
Leadership and Teachings
Elijah Muhammad assumed leadership of NOI in 1934 when Wallace D. Fard Muhammad mysteriously disappeared. As leader, he promoted ideas of black self-sufficiency, separate black communities from whites’ influence, moral transformation through Islamic teachings, and unity among African Americans regardless of belief.
The lesson should delve into some principal teachings cultivated by Elijah Muhammad that drew followers and sparked controversy:
1. Advocacy for black economic independence: By empowering African Americans to create their businesses, schools, and other institutions to serve their communities, Elijah Muhammad contributed to establishing a sense of pride and self-sufficiency among African Americans.
2. Controversial racial teachings: Critics were most alarmed by his belief in the inherent superiority of black people over white people. Discussing this aspect can introduce students to the idea that historical figures can have both positive and negative impacts.
3. Influence on Civil Rights Movement: Although Elijah Muhammad and the NOI were not directly involved in the Civil Rights Movement, they were an essential part of the conversation surrounding equality and self-determination for African Americans—two key themes from that era.
Impact on Prominent Figures
Elijah Muhammad had a significant influence on well-known figures such as Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, and Louis Farrakhan, all of whom became influential leaders within the NOI. By discussing these individuals’ relationships with Elijah Muhammad, students can better understand his impact on modern American history and his role in shaping public opinion towards racial equality.