Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Religious Studies

First Advisor

Andrea L. Stanton, Ph.D.


African American Islam, Conversion to Islam, Islam in America, Moorish science temple, Nation of Islam


This dissertation examines African-American Islamic culture from 1920 through 1959, a period I label the "African-American Islamic Renaissance" (AAIR). The AAIR is characterized by a significant increase in interest in Islam, extreme diversity in views about Islam, and the absence of a single organization dominating African-American Islamic culture for a significant amount of time. Previous works dealing with African-American Islam in this period have failed to fully recognize these features, particularly the last of these. As a result, explanations for the rise of the Nation of Islam (NOI) have not satisfactorily explained why it was only the NOI--and not other Islamic groups that were more popular than the NOI up until the mid-1950s--that became a "mass movement," gaining the allegiance of tens of thousands of African Americans. There has been some tendency, for instance, to assume that the NOI was the most popular African-American Islamic group by the early 1950s, a notion that is probably an inference drawn from two other popular but inaccurate assumptions: that the NOI's rise was due primarily to its radical racialized doctrines and its charismatic leaders, particularly Malcolm X, who became a popular minister for the group in the early 1950s. I argue, however, that the NOI was in fact not the most popular African-American Islamic group until at least 1955, and even as late as 1959 its official membership numbers were not particularly large by AAIR standards. Also, its doctrines were not especially unique in the AAIR, nor was its having extremely charismatic leaders. I contend that the success of the NOI in the mid-to-late 1950s was the result of three levels of changes at the time: internal, external in the AAIR community, and external in the broader U.S, culture.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.


Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Patrick Denis Bowen

File size

503 p.

File format





Religious History, African American Studies, Islamic Culture