TeacherServe Essays

Islam in America: From African Slaves to Malcolm X

Author: Tweed, Thomas A.

When students think of Islam—if they do at all—they might summon an image of Denzel Washington playing a stern and passionate Malcolm X in Spike Lee’s 1992 film, or maybe they imagine Louis Farrakhan on the speaker’s platform at the Million Man March in 1995. Some might have encountered Middle Eastern Muslims on the nightly news, mostly as “fundamentalists” and “terrorists.” A few have met immigrant Muslims in their neighborhood. Muslim students might be among their classmates. But Muslims are more diverse than popular images allow, and American Muslim history is longer than most might think, extending back to the day that the first slave ship landed on Virginia’s coast in 1619. It encorporates two groups—Muslims from other countries who migrated to America by force or by choice, and African Americans who created Muslim sects in the twentieth century. Thus, a consideration of the Islamic presence in America provides a new perspective on several important (and familiar) issues: What is the history of slavery in the United States? How have immigrants resisted and accommodated American culture? What were African Americans’ experiences in the northern cities after the Great Migration? How has African-American Islam addressed race relations since the 1960s? Is America a Christian nation?

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Subjects
History / Education Studies / American History / Islam / Islamic History / Muslims / Slavery / Immigration /