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On this date, the Registry remembers the birth of Elijah Muhammad in 1897. He was the Black leader of the Black separatist religious movement known as the Nation of Islam in America. The Nation of Islam (NOI) is sometimes called Black Muslims.
He was born Elijah Poole, the son of sharecroppers and former slaves from Sandersville, Georgia. He moved to Detroit in 1923. There, around 1930, Elijah Muhammad became assistant minister to the founder of the sect, Wallace D. Fard, at Temple No. 1. When Fard disappeared in 1934, Muhammad succeeded him as head of the movement, with the title "Minister of Islam." Because of dissension within the Detroit temple, he moved to Chicago, where he established Temple No. 2. During World War II, he advised followers to avoid the draft, and he was subsequently charged with violating the Selective Service Act. He was jailed (1942-46).
Muhammad slowly built up the membership of Black Muslims through assiduous recruitment in the postwar decades. His program called for establishing a separate nation for Black Americans and adopting a religion based on the worship of Allah and the belief that Blacks are his chosen people.
Muhammad became known especially for his flamboyant rhetoric directed at white people, whom he called "blue-eyed devils." In his later years, however, he moderated his anti-white tone and stressed self-help among Blacks rather than confrontation between the races. Because of Muhammad's separatist views, his most prominent disciple, Malcolm X, broke with the group.
Before his assassination in 1965, Malcolm X helped to lend an identity to the group (once known as the American Muslim Mission and now part of the worldwide orthodox Muslim community) that split from the Nation of Islam after Muhammad's death on February 25, 1975, in Chicago. Another group, retaining both the name and the founding principles of Elijah Muhammad's original Nation of Islam, was established under the leadership of Louis Farrakhan.