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Women of the Nation

Between Black Protest and Sunni Islam

Dawn-Marie Gibson

Publication Year: 2014

With vocal public figures such as Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad, and Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam often appears to be a male-centric religious movement, and over 60 years of scholarship have perpetuated that notion. Yet, women have been pivotal in the NOI's development, playing a major role in creating the public image that made it appealing and captivating.

Women of the Nation draws on oral histories and interviews with approximately 100 women across several cities to provide an overview of women's historical contributions and their varied experiences of the NOI, including both its continuing community under Farrakhan and its offshoot into Sunni Islam under Imam W.D. Mohammed. The authors examine how women have interpreted and navigated the NOI's gender ideologies and practices, illuminating the experiences of African-American, Latina, and Native American women within the NOI and their changing roles within this patriarchal movement. The book argues that the Nation of Islam experience for women has been characterized by an expression of Islam sensitive to American cultural messages about race and gender, but also by gender and race ideals in the Islamic tradition. It offers the first exhaustive study of women’s experiences in both the NOI and the W.D. Mohammed community.

Published by: NYU Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

I thank Dawn-Marie for the idea to write a book on women in the Nation of Islam and inviting me to co-write it. Dawn learned of my interest in women and the NOI from my article “Through Sunni Women’s Eyes.” I thank my mother, Marjorie Karim, and one of my “community mothers,” ...

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pp. 1-38

Both popular media and scholarly accounts of the Nation of Islam (NOI) tend to focus on dominant male figures such as Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, and Louis Farrakhan. In the rarer cases in which literature on the Nation features women’s experiences, Nation women are often presented in relation to these dominant men, as in the case of Sonji Clay, ...

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1. “Our Nation”: Women and the NOI, Pre-1975

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pp. 39-74

Jessica arrived at the Nation of Islam’s Temple No. 15 in Atlanta in 1974 while struggling to overcome low self-esteem, homelessness, drug use, and fractured family relationships. Prior to attending the NOI, Jessica had been a promising student at Spelman, a historically Black college for women. ...

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2. “Thank God It Changed!”: Women’s Transition to Sunni Islam, 1975–80

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pp. 75-129

Imam W. D. Mohammedis most known for bringing the NOI community into the fold of Sunni Islam. He assumed leadership of the NOI upon the death of his father, Elijah Muhammad, in 1975 and immediately taught from the Qur’an, replacing the Nation’s concept of “God in the Person” with the universal Islamic understanding of a transcendent God. ...

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3. Resurrecting the Nation: Women in Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam

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pp. 130-179

Khaleelah is a passionate community activist who negotiates her working day between the NOI and managing a community project at St. Sabina’s Catholic Church on the South Side of Chicago. Khaleelah’s journey to the NOI is atypical in that she left Sunni Islam for the NOI. ...

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4. Women in the Nation of Islam and the Warith Deen Mohammed Community: Crafting a Dialogue

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pp. 180-226

It was a “historic meeting,” Robert Franklin, then-president of the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC), averred in describing the panel featuring Imam Mohammed and Minister Ava Muhammad. Titled “The Spiritual State of Black America,” the meeting occurred in 2000 in Atlanta at the ITC, a historically Black consortium of seminaries. ...

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pp. 227-242

Feminist and womanist scholars have described Nation women as guilty of reproducing their own oppression because they accept traditional gender roles, including men as providers and women as homemakers. Yet Nation women have strategically embraced these gender roles in the context of the broader struggle for racial equality. ...


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pp. 243-258


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pp. 259-264

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About the Authors

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p. 265-265

Dawn-Marie Gibson is Lecturer in Twentieth-Century U.S. History in the Department of History at Royal Holloway, University of London. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780814771242
E-ISBN-10: 0814771246
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814769959
Print-ISBN-10: 0814769950

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2014