The Honorable Elijah Muhammad
Elijah Muhammad (born Elijah Robert Poole; October 7, 1897 – February 25, 1975) was an African American religious leader, who led the Nation of Islam from 1934 until his death in 1975. He was a mentor to Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, Muhammad Ali; and his son Warith Deen Mohammed.
Elijah Muhammad was born Elijah Robert Poole in Sandersville, Georgia, the seventh of thirteen children to William Poole, Sr. (1868–1942), a Baptist lay preacher and sharecropper, and Mariah Hall (1873–1958), a homemaker and sharecropper.Poole's education ended at the fourth grade. To support the family, he worked with his parents as a sharecropper. When he was sixteen years old, he left home and began working in factories and at other businesses.
Marriage and family
Poole married Clara Evans (1899–1972) on March 7, 1917. In 1923, the Pooles, like hundreds of thousands of other African Americans in those years, migrated from the Jim Crow South to the northern states for safety and employment opportunities in the industrial cities. Poole later recounted that before the age of 20, he had witnessed the lynchings of three black men by white people. He said, "I seen enough of the white man's brutality to last me 26,000 years". The Pooles settled in Hamtramck, Michigan. Through the 1920s and 1930s, Poole struggled to find and keep work as the economy suffered during the Great Depression. During their years in Detroit, the Pooles had eight children, six boys and two girls.
Conversion and rise to leadership
Nation of IslamIn August 1931, at the urging of his wife, Elijah Poole attended a speech on Islam and black empowerment by Wallace D. Fard. Afterward, Poole said he approached Fard and asked if he was the redeemer. Fard responded that he was, but that his time had not yet come. Poole soon became an ardent follower of Fard and joined his movement, as did his wife and several brothers. Soon afterward, Poole was given the Muslim surname, first to Karriem, and later at Fard's behest, to Muhammad. He assumed leadership of the Nation's Temple No. 2 in Chicago. His younger brother Kalot Muhammad became the leader of the movement's self-defense arm, the Fruit of Islam.
Fard was arrested during a police investigation of a ritual murder and later released on the condition that he leave Detroit. He relocated to Chicago and continued to oversee the movement from Temple No. 2. He turned over leadership of the growing Detroit group to Elijah Muhammad, and the Allah Temple of Islam changed its name to the Nation of Islam. Elijah Muhammad and Wallace Fard continued to communicate until 1934, when Wallace Fard disappeared. Elijah Muhammad succeeded him in Detroit and was named "Minister of Islam". After the disappearance, Elijah Muhammad told followers that Wallace Muhammad had literally been Allah on earth.
In 1934, the Nation of Islam published its first newspaper, Final Call to Islam, to educate and build membership. Children of its members attended classes at the newly created Muhammad University of Islam, but this soon led to challenges by boards of education in Detroit and Chicago, which considered the children truants from the public school system. The controversy led to the jailing of several University of Islam board members and Elijah Muhammad in 1934 and to violent confrontations with police. Muhammad was put on probation, but the university remained open.
Leadership of the Nation of Islam