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Ali, Noble Drew (08 January 1886–20 July 1929), religious leader, was born and raised in poverty in rural North Carolina. The names of his parents are not known, but he grew up with the name Timothy Drew. Although he had very little formal education, he studied the teachings of Islam and claimed to have traveled in the Middle East in the early part of the twentieth century. He also said that he had been given the title “Ali” during a visit to Mecca (in modern-day Saudi Arabia). He came to prominence in 1912 when he asked President ...

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Fard, Wallace (25 February 1891?–1934?), religious leader, was born and raised in obscurity. A number of legends have circulated about his early life, but apart from sketchy information contained in police and Federal Bureau of Investigation reports, no documented evidence as to his parentage or childhood exists. Law enforcement records suggest that Fard was born either in New Zealand or in Portland, Oregon, to Hawaiian or British and Polynesian parents. He apparently married and fathered a child as a young man but abandoned his family before moving to Los Angeles in the mid-1910s. His education was minimal. He used a variety of names during his lifetime, including W. D. Fard (pronounced “Far-rod”), Fard Muhammad, and F. Muhammad Ali....

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Hamid, Sufi Abdul (06 January 1903–30 July 1938), religious and labor leader, was born, according to his own statement, in Lowell, Massachusetts. According to Harlem historian Roi Ottley, however, he was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At various times Hamid also claimed to have been born in different places in the South. Little is known about Hamid’s early life, including his parents’ identities. According to Ottley, his original name was Eugene Brown. In an interview with writers from the Works Progress Administration, Hamid claimed to have been taken to Egypt at the age of nine, then to Athens, Greece, where he received his schooling through the university level. According to the interview, he returned to the United States in 1923 and began to work for the William J. Burns Detective Agency in St. Louis, Missouri, and Memphis, Tennessee. Hamid soon left that job and moved to Chicago, where he joined the Ahamidab movement, an Islamic organization based in India. During this time he changed his name to Bishop Conshankin. In 1928 he left that organization and formed the Illinois Civic Association, which led several boycotts of white-owned businesses in black areas of Chicago that refused to hire African Americans. Sponsored by the Chicago ...

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Malcolm X Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-115058).

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Malcolm X (19 May 1925–21 February 1965), African-American religious and political leader, also known as el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, was born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska, the son of Earl Little and Louise (also Louisa) Norton, both activists in the Universal Negro Improvement Association established by ...

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Elijah Muhammad Photograph by Stanley Wolfson.Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-116389).

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Muhammad, Elijah (10 October 1897–25 February 1975), leader of the Nation of Islam, was born Robert Poole in Sandersville, Georgia, the son of William Poole, an itinerant Baptist preacher and sharecropper, and Mariah Hall, a domestic for local white families. In 1900 the family moved to Cordele, Georgia, where Muhammad went to public school until the fourth grade when he dropped out to supplement his family’s income as a laborer in sawmills and with the Cherokee Brick Company. In 1919 he married Clara Evans of Cordele, and they had two daughters and six sons....