African American Heritage

The Nation of Islam

The Nation of Islam is an Islamic and black nationalist movement founded in Detroit, Michigan by Wallace D. Fard Muhammad in 1930. His mission was to "teach the downtrodden and defenseless black people a thorough knowledge of God and of themselves." Members of the NOI study the Quran, worship Allah as their God and accept Muhammad as their prophet, while also believing in notions of Black Nationalism.

In 1934, Elijah Muhammad succeeded Fard and the NOI began to gain popularity among African Americans during 1950s and 1960s with its message of racial independence, establishing mosques in urban areas, and converting incarcerated black men to the religion.

Records held at the National Archives related to the Nation of Islam are mostly federal investigations on their Black Nationalist activity across the country. Many of the investigative cases focused on the actions of individual members.

Below are records relating to the Nation of Islam in general, as well as pages highlighting prominent leaders and members of the group.

Elijah Muhammad

National Archives Identifier 556244

Elijah Muhammad is known as the most prominent leader of the Nation of Islam. As leader of the Nation of Islam, Muhammad dedicated himself towards expanding the organization by teaching against white supremacy.   Learn more



Malcolm X

Malcolm X

Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska in 1925. While serving a sentence for larceny and breaking and entering, Malcolm X joined the Nation of Islam, and soonm became the public face of the organization.

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Muhammad Ali

National Archives Identifier: 556247

Born Cassius Clay in Louisville, Kentucky, Muhammad Ali was a boxing great. He became a member of the Nation of Islam shortly before winning his first title as heavyweight champion of the world in 1964.

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Record Group 21: District Courts of the United States

Civil Case Files, 1938-1988 National Archives Identifier: 559845

Selected Records
File 3211-61, Fulwood v. Clemmer

Criminal Case Files, 1863-1992 National Archives Identifier: 559640

Selected Records
CR-53-59, US v. Fulwood

Record Group 59: Department of State

Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-1979 National Archives Identifier 654098

Selected Records
Electronic Telegrams, 1979 ( NAID 18558788

The electronic records in this series can be searched online via the Access to Archival Databases (AAD) system. The telegrams on AAD include only unclassified, unrestricted files which have been determined to be of permanent historical value. Please search for 'Nation of Islam'.

Record Group 60: Department of Justice

Class 25 (Selective Service Act) Litigation Case Files, 1920-1974 National Archives Identifier: 646049

Selected Records
25-12-1202 [Nation of Islam -Intern Security]

Record Group 65: Federal Bureau of Investigation

Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Case Files

Classification 157 (Civil Unrest) Case Files

Please use the Find function in your browser to search for 'Nation of Islam'

Record Group 267: Supreme Court of the United States

Electronic Dockets for Closed Appellate Cases, 1996-2006 National Archives Identifier 4325222

Selected Records
Docket 97-814 City of Cleveland, Petitioner v. Nation of Islam, Muhammad's Mosque No. 18, and Roland Muhammad, November 14, 1997 ( NAID 26894044)

Record Group 276: United States Courts of Appeals

General Appellate Jurisdiction Case Files, 1893-1981 National Archives Identifier: 1127801

Selected Records
16056, September 1960. Fulwood v. Clemmer
17282, September 1962, Fulwood v. Clemmer
17283, September 1962, Clemmer v. Fulwood

Record Group 306: US Information Agency (USIA)

Research Reports, 1960-1999 National Archives Identifier: 5637789

Selected Records
R-165-1962 Black Muslims or the Nation of Islam ( NAID 5714755)
R-165 Black Muslims or the Nation of Islam ( NAID 5679739)
R-60-1964 IRS Background Facts, The American Negro. VII: The Nation of Islam or Black Muslims ( NAID 5715062)
R-60 IRS Background Facts, The American Negro. VII: The Nation of Islam or Black Muslims ( NAID 5680046)

Moving Images Relating to US Domestic and International Activities, 1982-1999 National Archives Identifier 46890

Selected Records
The Time Has Come ( NAID 53804)