Abstract

This introduction argues that the powerful and complex wave of Islamic movements that emerged in the African American community between 1920 and 1975 was born out of a blending of African American folk culture, orthodox Islamic knowledge, black nationalism, and various forms of esotericism. In order to understand not only how these various elements contributed to the formation of what is called the ‘African American Islamic Renaissance,’ but also why only particular Islamic organizations and figures became popular during this period, it is necessary to recognize how the historical forces of de- and reterritorialization have shaped religious markets, particularly in regards to the changing relationships between folk religions and popular organized movements. Although previous authors have been vaguely aware of connections between older folk religions and the twentieth-century Islamic movements, it is argued here that specific pre-twentieth-century black folk traditions can in fact be identified in the Muslim groups’ teachings; most notably, two popular Muslim groups appear to have taught the slave-era ‘red flag’ tradition. By identifying such specific links, and by presenting additional little-known information about the activities of the Muslim organizations, this book can present a more thorough analysis of the key forces shaping the movements themselves. The two major eras of Islamic movements during the Renaissance—which lasted from ca. 1920 to ca. 1945 and ca. 1945 to 1975—were primarily the products of major institutional changes that allowed for the de- and reterritorializations of folk religious concepts when organizations successfully used mass media, appealed to wide swaths of people with beneficial programs and attractive teachings, and recruited from pre-existing social networks. A chapter-by-chapter outline of the book is provided.

A History of Conversion to Islam in the United States, Volume 2

The African American Islamic Renaissance, 1920-1975

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