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This chapter outlines the history of Noble Drew Ali’s Islamic movement, the Moorish Science Temple of America, from 1925 to 1945. Drew Ali’s movement grew rapidly after its initial creation, apparently recruiting many Garveyites, Ahmadis, believers in hoodoo, and individuals interested in its economic and political programs. In early 1929, the organization was by far the largest black Muslim movement to have existed by that time, but infighting and Drew Ali’s death later that year resulted in the organization breaking into competing factions. The various post-Drew Ali Moorish groups varied in several ways, but the most significant difference was whether or not the groups believed that Drew Ali had been reincarnated in the form of their new leaders. Of the reincarnated factions, that of John Givens-El was the largest, and was notable for requiring its members to follow a strict behavioral code, for being highly critical of outsiders, and for operating several businesses. Charles Kirkman Bey, Drew Ali’s former assistant, led the largest non-reincarnation faction, which had dozens of temples throughout the country as well as multiple farms. Diversity, however, was a common feature of the Moorish movement, and many Moors mixed their teachings with other Islamic, political, and esoteric concepts, a tendency that left the larger Moorish community fractured.

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

The African American Islamic Renaissance, 1920-1975