Wooden prayer beads owned by Suliaman El-Hadi, late 20th century

Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Qaddafi El-Hadi in memory of Suliaman El-Hadi

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.

These wooden prayer beads belonged to Suliaman El-Hadi, a member of the pioneering spoken word group The Last Poets. Founded on May 19, 1968, on the anniversary of Malcolm X’s birthday, the Last Poets performed politically conscious poetry accompanied by percussion. El-Hadi joined the group in 1972, and went on to record and perform with them for twenty-two years. El-Hadi and Muslim bandmate Jalal Mansur Nuruddin regularly and seamlessly intertwined calls to Black consciousness with references to Islam, laying the foundation for Islam’s influence on Hip Hop.

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