Tape recorder used by Malcolm X at Mosque No. 7, 1960

Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

Since its inception, in the spirit of Carter G. Woodson, Sapelo Square has commemorated Black History Month with daily Black Muslim History facts. This year, Sapelo Square is exploring the Muslim collection at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). During Black History Month, we will display a different object each day from the collection, showing how the objects help tell the rich histories of Muslims of African descent in the United States. View the entire series at our dedicated Black History Month 2021 page.

Malcolm X used this tape recorder in 1960 when he served as minister of the Nation of Islam’s (NOI’s) Mosque No. 7 in Harlem. Malcolm’s tenure began in 1954; and under his leadership, the mosque’s membership and activity increased significantly, propelling him to national prominence as the NOI’s National Representative. By 1963, he was one of the most requested speakers on college campuses. He used the tape recorder to record his speeches, which no doubt contributed to his effectiveness as an organizer and leader. The tape recorder indexes the importance of the spoken word to the NOI’s mission and a commitment to preserving its historical record.

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