Nation of Islam

The Nation of Islam was founded in Detroit, Michigan in July, 1930 by Wallace Fard Muhammad, also known as W. D. Fard Muhammad (1877–1934). The N.O.I. teaches that W. Fard Muhammad is both the “Messiah” of Judaism and the Mahdi of Islam. Within one year, he had approximately 25,000 followers who knew him as Prophet W.D. Fard, at Mosque of Islam #1.

Fard’s assistant minister Elijah Muhammad succeeded him as head of the movement in 1934. Because of dissension within the Detroit temple, he moved to Chicago where he established Mosque No. 2. During World War II, he advised followers to avoid the draft, as he said the US did nothing for blacks. He was charged and convicted of violating the Selective Service Act and was jailed (1942–46). Continue reading

Lemuel Haynes

Lemuel Haynes

Lemuel Haynes

Lemuel Haynes was the first black to serve as minister to a white congregation.

Little is known of his early life. He was born in West Hartford, Connecticut, to a reportedly Caucasian mother of some status and a man named Haynes, who was said to be “of some form of African extraction”. According to the African American National Biography, his birth date is 18 July 1753 and he died the 28 September 1833.

At the age of five months, Lemuel Haynes was given over to indentured servitude in Granville, Massachusetts. Although serving as an agricultural worker, part of the agreement required educating him. Through accompanying his masters to church, he became exposed to Calvinistic thought. At about twenty years of age, he saw the Aurora Borealis, and, fearing the approach of the Day of Judgment as a result, he soon accepted Christianity.  Continue reading

Mother Matelda Beasley

Mother Matelda Beasley

Mother Matelda Beasley

When Mathilde (later spelled Mathilda) Taylor was born on November 14, 1832 in New Orleans, to Caroline, a slave owned by James C. Taylor, few would have believed that she would later successfully defy the very laws that kept her and her mother from their freedom. It was speculated that her father was Native American and Mathilda inherited her “extreme height and her commanding figure� from him.

Little is known of Mathilda’s early years in Louisiana and there is no record of how she achieved her freedom to move to Savannah as a young woman. But by 1859, records indicate that she had been operating a secret school for African-American children at a time in history when “punishment for teaching slaves or free person of color to read� was a “fine and whipping.� Facing great personal risks, she was committed to educating children who otherwise would have no opportunity for schooling and because there is little information about her school, she seems to have achieved her goal of keeping her efforts from the authorities.  Continue reading

Bishop William H. Miles

Bishop_W_H_MilesWilliam Henry Miles (1828-1892) was a founder and the first senior bishop of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in America, a Methodist denomination formed in 1870 to serve African-American Methodists in the American South. Miles College in Birmingham, Alabama is named in his honor.

Miles was born in Springfield, Kentucky. He was a slave of Mrs. Mary Miles; when she died in 1854, she willed William his freedom (although he was not freed until 1864)

James Varick

James VarickJames Varick was born near Newburgh, New York, on January 10, 1750. His mother was a slave of the Varicks, or Van Varicks, and was later freed. His father, Richard, was born in Hackensack, New Jersey, where he was baptized in the Dutch Church. The family lived in New York City while James Varick was young, where he acquired an elementary education in New York schools. For many years, he worked as a shoemaker and later as a tobacco cutter to support himself and his family, because the church with which he was associated did not pay its preachers. About 1790, he married Aurelia Jones. The couple had four sons and three daughters. Continue reading

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