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date: 16 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses the first manifestations of Islam in America from the eighteenth century to 1975. The first US Muslims were West African Sunnis who had been deported through the transatlantic slave trade. Most came from Senegal, Gambia, and Guinea. Despite being enslaved in a Christian land, they maintained their faith, and evidence shows that some continued to pray, fast, give charity, and follow a particular diet and dress code. Their literacy was well known and manuscripts they wrote in Arabic have been preserved. Part of their legacy can still be heard in American music. After their disappearance and without any evidence of continuity, indigenous movements, such as the Moorish Science Temple of Islam and the Nation of Islam, emerged in the early 1900s. Within their communities, created by and built around charismatic men, they mixed black nationalism, new definitions of identity, and pseudo-Islamic tenets, often in contradiction to the most basic principles of Islam. All these were used to bolster mental emancipation, self-determination, economic improvement, and social justice.

Keywords: West Africa, slavery, Muslim slaves, literacy, Sunnis, transatlantic slave trade, Nation of Islam, Moorish Science Temple of America

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