Jersey for the Milwaukee Bucks worn and signed by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 1973-1975

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.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wore this jersey when he played for the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1970s. Born Lew Alcindor, he was introduced to Islam in part by reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X as a freshman at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1966. In 1971, he embraced Sunni Islam and took the name Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the same year he led the Bucks to their first National Basketball Association (NBA) championship. Similar to Muhammad Ali, Abdul-Jabbar he saw his name as a “rejection of all things in my life that related the enslavement of my family and people.” And like Ali, he excelled at his sport. When Abdul-Jabbar retired in 1989 after twenty seasons, he led the NBA in points scored; and in 1995, he was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Since his retirement from basketball, he has established himself as a prolific essayist, pop cultural critic, and screenwriter.

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