The contributions to Islam and America by Black Americans have been both inspiring and truly eye-opening. Islam in America would not be the way it is without African American influence. American society saw its first population of Muslims through the import of African slaves. More than 200 years ago, our nation was embedded in the gross practice of slavery; by 1800, estimates have shown that at least 15 to 30 percent of slaves were Muslim. Muslim slaves unknowingly contributed to the narrative of Islam in America by continuing to practice their faith in the face of great adversity. There are historical accounts of Muslims fighting in the American Revolutionary War, aiming to assist in the very creation of this nation.
One of the most famous Black American Muslim figures in modern history is undoubtedly one of the most prolific contributors to America, Malcolm X. In his transformation from a member of the Nation of Islam where he espoused powerful rhetoric in defense of black supremacy to his shift to Sunni Islam, Malcolm X proved to be an intellectual force in the formation of identity to be reckoned with.
Black Americans have certainly established the bedrock of Islam in America; without them, the way we see and experience Islam in America today would not be. In sports, we see the likes of the great Muhamad Ali, the humble Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the devout Hakeem Olajuwon and the fierce Ibtihaj Muhammad. In 2017, Ilhan Omar became one of the two first Muslim women to serve in US Congress. In a time when Islam is seen as a suspicious foreign entity existing within the U.S., the centuries old narrative of Islam in America proves otherwise—it has been a thriving, contributing force to the very structure of our nation from the country’s inception.
The roots of Islam in America can be dated back to the very formation of this nation on the backs of those whose religion values freedom, justice, human rights and equality. And they will continue to flourish in this country.
Includes excerpt from Celebrating the roots of Islam in America through Black History Month by MPAC