MATERIAL: Typed
TYPE: Letter
DIMENSIONS: 8.5" x 11"
COMPONENTS: One page, accompanied by the original mailing envelope with "From the Messenger" handwritten across the front in an unknown hand.
CONDITION: Flattened mail folds. Boldly signed.
ITEM ID: 4916

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Letter Signed by Elijah Mohammad

DATE
Year: 1968
Decade: 1960s
Century: 20th (1901-2000)
Notes: January 10, 1968

Typed letter signed Elijah Muhammad. The letter was written to fellow Nation of Islam member Benjamin X. Mitchell.

The letter reads in part:
“In the Name of Almighty Allah…Master of the Day of Judgment…Please write to the Muhammad Speaks newspaper office regarding the change in your broadcasting time. Best love and wishes to all of the Believers in your area.” Accompanied by the original mailing envelope, with “From the Messenger” handwritten across the front in an unknown hand.

The Louis Jordan Tourist Home at 2118 Violet Drive.
Jordan—one of the most popular bandleaders of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, who could arguably lay claim to having been the main influence for the creation of R&B, rock ’n’ roll and hip-hop—had moved to Phoenix in 1952 to retire in what Jet magazine at the time called “a swanky new estate.” If you were a black traveler in the 1950s, you could have rented a room in that estate.

In 1961, the home had been purchased by Elijah Muhammad for the same reasons that Jordan had purchased it, as a way to improve his health via the warm Arizona climate. Elijah Muhammad then built the western headquarters for the Nation of Islam next door at 2122 East Violet Drive. In the mid-’80s, Louis Farrakhan purchased the home at 2118 Violet Drive and has used it ever since.

Elijah Muhammad (born Elijah Robert Poole; October 7, 1897 – February 25, 1975) was a religious leader who led the Nation of Islam (NOI) from 1934 until his departure in 1975. He was a mentor to Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan and Muhammad Ali, as well as his own son, Warith Deen Mohammed.

He was born Elijah Robert Poole in Sandersville, Georgia, the seventh of thirteen children. His education ended at the third grade, after which he went to work in sawmills and brickyards. To support the family, he worked with his parents as a sharecropper. When he was sixteen years old, he left home and began working in factories and at other businesses.

Poole married Clara Evans (1899–1972) on March 7, 1917. In 1923, the Poole family was among hundreds of thousands of black families forming the First Great Migration leaving the oppressive and economically troubled South in search of safety and employment. Poole later recounted that before the age of 20, he had witnessed the lynchings of three black men by white people. He said, “I seen enough of the white man’s brutality to last me 26,000 years”.

Moving his own family, parents and siblings, Elijah and the Pooles settled in the industrial North of Hamtramck, Michigan. Through the 1920s and 1930s, Poole struggled to find and keep work as the economy suffered during the post World War I and Great Depression eras. During their years in Detroit, Elijah and Clara had eight children, six boys and two girls.

While he was in Detroit, Poole began taking part in various Black Nationalist movements within the city. In August 1931, at the urging of his wife, Elijah Poole attended a speech on Islam and black empowerment by Wallace Fard Muhammad (Wallace D. Fard). Afterward, Poole said he approached Fard and asked if he was the “Mahdi” (redeemer). Fard responded that he was, but that his time had not yet come. Fard taught that Blacks, as original Asiatics, had a rich cultural history which was stolen from them in their enslavement. Fard stated that African Americans could regain their freedoms through self-independence and cultivation of their own culture and civilization. Poole, having strong consciousness of both race and class issues as a result of his struggles in the South, quickly fell in step with Fard’s ideology.

Poole soon became an ardent follower of Fard and joined his movement, as did his wife and several brothers. Soon afterward, Poole was given a Muslim surname, first “Karriem”, and later, at Fard’s behest, “Muhammad”. He assumed leadership of the Nation’s Temple No. 2 in Chicago. His younger brother Kalot Muhammad became the leader of the movement’s self-defense arm, the Fruit of Islam.

Fard turned over leadership of the growing Detroit group to Elijah Muhammad and the Allah Temple of Islam changed its name to the Nation of Islam. Elijah Muhammad and Wallace Fard continued to communicate until 1934, when Wallace Fard disappeared. Elijah Muhammad succeeded him in Detroit and was named “Minister of Islam”.

In 1934, the Nation of Islam published its first newspaper, Final Call to Islam, to educate and build membership. Children of its members attended classes at the newly created Muhammad University of Islam, but this soon led to challenges by boards of education in Detroit and Chicago, which considered the children truants from the public school system. The controversy led to the jailing of several University of Islam board members and Elijah Muhammad in 1934 and to violent confrontations with police. Muhammad was put on probation, but the university remained open.

On May 8, 1942, Elijah Muhammad was arrested for failure to register for the draft during World War II. After he was released, Muhammad fled Washington D.C. on the advice of his attorney, who feared a lynching, and returned to Chicago after a seven year long absence. Following his return to Chicago, Elijah Muhammad was firmly in charge of the Nation of Islam. While Muhammad was in prison, the growth of the Nation of Islam had stagnated, with fewer than 400 members remaining by the time of his release in 1946. However, through the conversion of his fellow inmates as well as renewed efforts outside prison, he was able to redouble his efforts and continue growing the Nation. From four temples in 1946, the Nation of Islam grew to 15 by 1955. By 1959, there were 50 temples in 22 states.

Muhammad preached his own version of Islam to his followers in the Nation. According to him, blacks were known as the ‘original’ human being, with ‘evil’ whites being an offshoot race that would go on to oppress black people for 6,000 years. He preached that the Nation of Islam’s goal was to return the stolen hegemony of the inferior whites back to blacks across America. Much of Elijah Muhammad’s teachings appealed to young, economically disadvantaged, African-American males from Christian backgrounds. Traditionally, Black males wouldn’t go to church because the church did not address their needs. Elijah Muhammad’s program for economic development played a large part in the growth in the Nation of Islam. He purchased land and businesses to provide housing and employment for young black males.

By the 1970s, the Nation of Islam owned bakeries, barber shops, coffee shops, grocery stores, laundromats, night-clubs, a printing plant, retail stores, numerous real estate holdings, a fleet of tractor trailers, plus farmland in Michigan, Alabama, and Georgia.

In 1972 the Nation of Islam took controlling interest in a bank, the Guaranty Bank and Trust Co. Nation of Islam-owned schools expanded until, by 1974, the group had established schools in 47 cities throughout the United States. In 1972, Muhammad told followers that the Nation of Islam had a net worth of $75 million.

During his time as leader of the Nation of Islam, Muhammad had developed the Nation of Islam from a small movement in Detroit to an empire consisting of banks, schools, restaurants, and stores across 46 cities in America. The Nation also owned over 15,000 acres of farmland, their own truck- and air- transport systems, as well as a publishing company that printed the country’s largest Black newspaper. As a leader, Muhammad served as a mentor to many notable members, such as Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Louis Farrakhan and his son Warith Deen Mohammed.

The Nation of Islam is estimated to have between 20,000 and 50,000 members, and 130 mosques offering numerous social programs. Upon his death, his son Warith Deen Mohammed succeeded him.

Warith disbanded the Nation of Islam in 1976 and founded an orthodox mainstream Islamic organization, that came to be known as the American Society of Muslims. The organization would dissolve, change names and reorganize many times. In 1977, Louis Farrakhan resigned from Warith Deen’s reformed organization and reinstituted the original Nation of Islam upon the foundation established by Wallace Fard Muhammad and Elijah Muhammad. Farrakhan regained many of the Nation of Islam’s original properties including the National Headquarters Mosque #2 (Mosque Maryam) and Muhammad University of Islam in Chicago.

Rift with Malcolm X:
Rumors were circulating among Nation of Islam members that Muhammad was conducting extramarital affairs with young Nation secretaries‍—‌which would constitute a serious violation of Nation teachings. After first discounting the rumors, Malcolm X came to believe them after he spoke with Muhammad’s son Wallace and with the women making the accusations. Muhammad confirmed the rumors in 1963, attempting to justify his behavior by referring to precedents set by Biblical prophets.

On December 1, 1963, when asked for a comment about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X said that it was a case of “chickens coming home to roost”. He added that “chickens coming home to roost never did make me sad; they’ve always made me glad.” The New York Times wrote, “in further criticism of Mr. Kennedy, the Muslim leader cited the murders of Patrice Lumumba, Congo leader, of Medgar Evers, civil rights leader, and of the Negro girls bombed earlier this year in a Birmingham church. These, he said, were instances of other ‘chickens coming home to roost’.” The remarks prompted a widespread public outcry. The Nation of Islam, which had sent a message of condolence to the Kennedy family and ordered its ministers not to comment on the assassination, publicly censured their former shining star. Malcolm X retained his post and rank as minister, but was prohibited from public speaking for 90 days.

The extramarital affairs, the suspension, and other factors caused a rift between the two men, with Malcolm X leaving the Nation of Islam in March 1964 to form his own religious organization, Muslim Mosque Inc. After dealing with death threats and attempts on his life for a year, Malcolm X was assassinated on February 21, 1965. Many people suspected that the Nation of Islam was responsible for the killing of Malcolm X. Five days after Malcolm X was murdered, in a public speech at the Nation of Islam’s annual Saviours’ Day on February 26, Muhammad justified the assassination by quoting that “Malcolm got just what he preached”, but at the same time denied any involvement with the murder by asserting in the same speech: “We didn’t want to kill Malcolm and didn’t try to kill him. We know such ignorant, foolish teaching would bring him to his own end.”

Cooperation with white supremacists:
Muhammad’s pro-separation views were compatible with those of some white supremacist organizations in the 1960s. He allegedly met with leaders of the Ku Klux Klan in 1961 to work toward the purchase of farmland in the deep south. He eventually established Temple Farms, now Muhammad Farms, on a 5,000-acre tract in Terrell County, Georgia. George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party, once called Muhammad “the Hitler of the black man.” At the 1962 Saviours’ Day celebration in Chicago, Rockwell addressed Nation of Islam members. Many in the audience booed and heckled him and his men, for which Muhammad rebuked them in the April 1962 issue of Muhammad Speaks.