by Rasul Miller
Join our history co-editor, Rasul Miller, this month for a two-part lecture on the history of African American Sunni communities in the United States. This series from Lamppost Productions presents this history as an important and foundational part of the story of Islam in the United States. Miller offers this narrative not simply as the story of a single community but rather as a part of the ummah-wide tradition of knowing and preserving the legacy of the first generation of Muslims to bring Islam to a new land or people.
These lectures depart significantly from most histories African American and Black American Muslims in the United States by focusing upon the often neglected Sunni communities from the early to mid-twentieth century. These communities are just as old, and have been just as dynamic, as groups like the Nation of Islam that tend to occupy the spotlight. This story begins before World War I with Abdul Hamid Suleiman and Satti Majid, and continues with Dawud Ahmad Faisal and Mother Khadijah’s State Street Masjid in Brooklyn as well as Professor Ezzaldeen’s Addeynu Allahe Universal Arabic Association. Their legacy continues on to this day in institutions like Masjid Quba in Philadelphia and the countless lives that they shaped.
These early communities not only demonstrate the presence of Sunni orthodoxy far earlier than is often remembered—they also established their own norms of of spiritual, social, and political engagement, which provide an important precedent for all American Muslims today.
Rasul Miller is a PhD student in History and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. His research interests include Muslim movements in 20th century America and their relationship to Black internationalist thought and West African intellectual history.