The Fugitive Islamicate: African Muslims and Black Radicalism across the Atlantic, 1492-1925


This dissertation takes up Islam’s relationship to Black nationalism across the Atlantic diaspora of Muslims that I call “the Fugitive Islamicate.” Scholars most often have described this relationship as commencing in the twentieth century with the rise of “Black Muslim religion,” a U.S. religious movement that begins with Noble Drew Ali’s founding of the Moorish Science Temple of America in 1925 and continues until the death of Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam, in 1975. I show the provenance of this narrative to emerge with a Federal Bureau of Investigation project to shape public discourse on the Nation of Islam by offering “the Black Muslim” as an unprecedented figure who violates U.S. secularism by syncretizing the religion of Islam with Black nationalist politics. I then attempt to excavate the true historical depth of Islam’s relationship to Black nationalism with two distinct genealogies that Noble Drew Ali himself specifies. The first of these examines “the Moor,” a Black Muslim figure who emerges consistently across the Atlantic in moments in which racial blackness is constituted. The second examines the tradition of Pan-Africanism that produced Marcus Garvey, whom Ali named as his predecessor. I trace this tradition through two primary figures: Dusé Mohamed Ali, a Sudanese journalist living in London and Edward Wilmot Blyden, a West African intellectual and diplomat. The lives of these figures demonstrate not only that Islam and Black nationalism went explicitly hand-in-hand for nearly a century prior the Moorish Science Temple of America, but also that the trans-Atlantic, Pan-Africanist networks they cultivated provided the very foundations of Black Muslim religion. This dissertation thus provides a very different history of Black Muslim religion: one that ends, rather than begins, with the Moorish Science Temple of America in 1925.

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