Cordless microphone used by Rakim to record The 18th Letter, 1997

Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Rakim

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.

Hip Hop artist Rakim used this microphone to record his 1997 album, The 18th Letter. Born William Griffin, Jr., he adopted the name Rakim Allah when he joined the Nation of Gods and Earths (NGE) (also called the Five Percent Nation) in the 1980s. An outgrowth of the Nation of Islam (NOI), the NGE placed an emphasis on studying and analyzing the NOI’s lessons through the use of elaborate metaphor, lyricism, and poetics. Rakim is just one among many NGE-affiliated rap artists who have dominated Hip Hop since its beginning.

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