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WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 16: Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan delivers a speech and talks about U.S. President Donald Trump, at the Watergate Hotel, on November 16, 2017 in Washington, DC. This is the first time that Minister Farrakhan will speak directly to the 45th President of the United States and will address "issues of importance regarding Americas domestic challenges, her place on the world stage and her future." (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Louis Farrakhan’s Biography

Louis Eugene Walcott, also known as Louis Abdul Farrakhan, was born May 11, 1933 in the Bronx, New York, New York, United States. He became the leader of the Nation of Islam in 1978. The Nation of Islam was an African American movement that combined elements of Islam with Black nationalism.

His mother, Sarah Mae Manning, a St. Kitts and Nevis immigrant, raised Walcott, as he was then known, in Boston. As a young child who was extremely religious, he was involved in the St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church in his Roxbury neighborhood. He attended the esteemed Boston English High School, where he played the violin, ran track, and graduated with honors. Between 1951 and 1953, he was a student at the Winston-Salem Teachers College, but he left to start a profession.

He was a calypso and country singer who worked as a professional on the Boston nightclub scene under the stage name “The Charmer.” He wed Khadijah in 1953, and the two of them had nine kids.

Walcott joined the Nation of Islam in 1955. He changed his last name to a “X” in accordance with Nation of Islam tradition since he believed his family names were descended from white slaveholders. Louis X first established himself at Temple No. 7 in Harlem, where he became Malcolm X’s protégé. Malcolm X was the temple’s minister and one of the most well-known Nation of Islam members. Louis X was given the Muslim name Abdul Haleem Farrakhan by Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad. Malcolm had earlier founded Boston Temple No. 11, where Farrakhan was named head minister.

Farrakhan succeeded Malcolm X as head minister of Harlem’s Temple No. 7 and as the National Representative of the Nation, the second-in-command of the organization, when Malcolm X left the Nation in 1964 due to disagreements with Elijah Muhammad on both a political and a personal level. Farrakhan was a dynamic, charismatic leader who could captivate the African American population. He was also a persuasive speaker.

The Nation of Islam broke apart after the passing of Elijah Muhammad in February 1975. Unexpectedly, Wallace Muhammad (now known as Warith Deen Mohammed), the fifth of Elijah’s six sons, was chosen by the Nation’s leadership to serve as the new Supreme Minister. Farrakhan, who was disappointed that he was not chosen as Elijah’s successor, founded a sect in 1978 that he also called the Nation of Islam and that upheld Elijah Muhammad’s original principles. Farrakhan opposed Wallace Muhammad’s efforts to convert the Nation to traditional Sunni Islam and to purge it of Elijah Muhammad’s radical Black nationalism and separatist teachings, which emphasized the inherent wickedness of whites. Wallace Muhammad also wanted to rid the Nation of Elijah Muhammad.

Through a string of problems that started during the 1984 presidential campaign of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who Farrakhan supported, the American public first learned about Farrakhan. After Jewish voters objected to his praise of Adolf Hitler, Farrakhan withdrew his support. As a result of his purportedly anti-Semitic statements, he has been at odds with the American Jewish community ever since. Farrakhan has refuted these accusations. In later talks, he accused the American government of conspiring to kill Black people by infecting them with AIDS and drug addiction.

For the purpose of promoting African American solidarity and family values, the Nation sponsored the Million Man March in Washington, D.C., in 1995. Between 400,000 and almost 1.1 million marchers, the most of them were men, were estimated to have participated, making it the biggest protest in American history at the time. The Nation of Islam was led by Farrakhan, who also oversaw the establishment of a clinic for AIDS patients in Washington, D.C., as well as efforts to drive drug dealers out of the city’s public housing projects and private apartment buildings. Additionally, it helped gang members in Los Angeles. According to its long-standing objectives of independence in terms of both economics and self-reliance, the Nation continued to support social reform in African American communities at this time.

The Nation of Islam’s core membership was estimated to be between 10,000 and 50,000 people in the early 21st century, but during that time Farrakhan was frequently drawing crowds of over 30,000 to his speeches in major American cities. The Nation was one of the Muslim movements in the country that grew the fastest under Farrakhan’s direction. In Ghana, London, Paris, and the Caribbean islands, foreign branches of the nation were established. Farrakhan developed relationships with Muslim nations in order to increase the Nation’s global influence. In the late 1980s, he also developed a friendship with Muammar al-Qaddafi, the dictator of Libya.

Following a near-death experience in 2000 brought on by prostate cancer difficulties (Farrakhan had been diagnosed with cancer in 1991), he tried to improve relations with other minority groups, such as Native Americans, Hispanics, and Asians by reducing his use of racial rhetoric. When Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, the foremost orthodox Muslim in America, and Farrakhan acknowledged one another as fellow Muslims in 2000, Farrakhan likewise drew his movement closer to traditional Sunni Islam.

Early in the twenty-first century, Farrakhan was compelled by health difficulties to scale back his involvement with the Nation of Islam. Despite this, he continued to retain a respectable level of visibility by presenting sermons both in person and online. He openly accepted Dianetics, a Scientology technique, in 2010. Farrakhan also stated that he wanted all Nation of Islam members to become “auditors,” which are people who practice the one-on-one counseling method used by Scientology to help people deal with their “engrams,” which, in accordance with Scientology’s teachings, are mental representations of unpleasant past experiences that have a negative emotional impact on one’s life. He organized a march in Washington, D.C., in 2015 to commemorate the Million Man March’s 20th anniversary.

In 2019, Facebook banned Farrakhan and other well-known individuals who were deemed to be extremists.

In 2005, Farrakhan won the title of “Person of the Year” in a Black Entertainment Television (BET) poll.

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