Elijah Muhammad is currently trending on Twitter because Black America is acknowledging what would have been the Nation Of Islam leader’s 125th birthday.
Born Elijah Poole on Oct. 7, 1897, Muhammad eventually rose to become one of the most popular religious leaders of his time. Though some found his teachings controversial, many acknowledged the NOI’s role in helping many Black people improve their lives.
That sentiment still stands among many Black Americans.
In the 1960s, “Reader’s Digest” dubbed Muhammad “The Most Powerful Black Man in America.” High-profile Black academics, authors and leaders agreed, some of whom were not Muslim.
Iconic author James Baldwin was among them. Though he disagreed with Muhammad’s stance that all white people were devils, he credited the positives of Muhammad’s leadership.
In his bestselling 1963 book, “The Fire Next Time” – originally published in 1963 – Baldwin spoke of Muhammad’s impact on Black Americans. He wrote:
“Elijah Muhammad has been able to do what generations of welfare workers and committees and resolutions and reports and housing projects and playgrounds have failed to do: To heal and redeem drunkards and junkies, to convert people who came out of prison and to keep them out; to make men chaste and women virtuous and to invest both the male and the female with a pride and serenity that hang about them like an unfailing light. He has done all these things, which our Christian church has spectacularly failed to do.”
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Alex Haley – the legendary writer and author of the iconic “Roots: The Saga of an American Family,” who was also a collaborator on “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” – also spoke of Muhammad’s impact.
“If I had to pick the single person who has been the most important figure for blacks in the black thrust from post-World War ll, I would unequivocally pick Elijah Muhammad,” Haley said in a 1976 interview published in Black Scholar. “Because it was he who …. was like a lightning bolt in opening up the consciousness of black people…from this just blank psychic wall of just total fear of the structure in which we lived. And I am saying these things clinically.”
According to an obituary article about Elijah Muhammad published in the New York Times in 1975 after his death, a Black conservative named George Schuyler also complimented Muhammad in a Pittsburgh Courier article in 1959.
“Mr. Muhammad may be a rogue and a charlatan, but when anybody can get tens of thousands of Negroes to practice economic solidarity, respect their women, alter their atrocious diet, give up liquor, stop crime, juvenile delinquency and adultery, he is doing more for Negroes’ welfare than any current Negro leader I know,” Schuyler reportedly wrote.
“There is no man who is unflawed. … The Hon. Elijah Muhammad was the greatest psychologist that Black people ever created, bar none,” psychologist Dr. Amos Wilson said during a lecture that can be viewed on YouTube.
Those giving Muhammad his flowers are not limited to Black leaders who are no longer among the living.
Powerhouse media and business executive Cathy Hughes has also spoken highly of Muhammad. “The Honorable Elijah Muhammad was one of the greatest African American leaders of this century,” Hughes said in a quote endorsing a book about Muhammad and the Nation of Islam.
The Moguldom Nation founder Jamarlin Martin tweeted a photo of himself and Hughes that he captioned with the quote. He added, “Elijah is ‘all up in the guts’ of Black accomplishment. Many are inspired but they have to keep it secret or checks stop immediately.”
Men and women across the country are continuing to send Muhammad birthday wishes on social media.
“The Honorable Elijah Muhammad What a man! What a gift! …We thank Allah for this magnificent human being! 125 years old today!” a Twitter user identified as Ishmael Muhammad wrote.
“ASA! We are eternally grateful and thankful to Allah for the GIFT of The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad. The GIFT that keeps on living and giving,” Missey Muhammad wrote.
“Happy 125th Birth Anniversary to The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad . A Man who raised a Nation within a Nation,” Asad Muhammad tweeted.
“When you think of how extraordinary these men are, think of Who they have in common. What a phenomenal teacher to have,” @B1ack_Woman wrote. “He taught and brought out the best in them and this is why we appreciate them today. All praise is due to Allah (God) for The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad.”
PHOTO: Elijah Muhammad. Photo: Chicago Urban League Photos (University of Illinois at Chicago)