A History of Muslims in America

INTRODUCTION

This curriculum was designed to supplement content standards in social studies and world history as it relates to the study of American history. The curriculum is made up of eight individual lesson plans, each of which focuses on different parts of the accompanying digital presentation, A History of Muslims in America. Each lesson includes detailed notes that describe each slide in the presentation. In addition to the notes, each lesson also features post-presentation discussion and test questions. The curriculum also includes links to related films accompanied by follow-up questions. Each lesson concludes with further resources and references.

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LESSON ONE: MUSLIMS AND AMERICA, A LONG HISTORY

The first lesson emphasizes the fact that Muslims are not new to America, but came here along with early European explorers and settlers. Muslims were explicitly referenced by America’s founding fathers, such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. They viewed them as potential citizens with rights and obligations no different from those of other Americans. Muslim immigrants and converts have helped to build America along with countless other groups of people. This little-known history is an important part of the larger narrative and history of this country.

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LESSON TWO: BEFORE COLUMBUS

This lesson explores the possibility of Muslims having preceded Columbus to the New World. This is a theory  that has yet to be established, but is evidenced by a number of factors. One possible theory is that Muslims from West Africa may have come to the Americas as explorers in the 14th century. This lesson looks at factors which support this theory. These include the discovery of clay heads which resemble the appearance of West African Muslims, their proximity to the New World, maritime currents, well-built boats, and a long navigational experience.

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LESSON THREE: ENSLAVED WEST AFRICAN MUSLIMS

This lesson describes the experiences of West African Muslims enslaved during the period of the Atlantic Slave Trade. It highlights some of the well-documented stories of West African Muslims enslaved in the United States, and their responses to slavery. These include such notable West African Muslims as Yarrow Mamout and Abdul Rahman ibn Ibrahim Sori. While some responded to slavery with accommodation, others worked for their freedom, or resisted in other ways.  Many of these people were distinctive in terms of their cosmopolitan backgrounds and often their literacy.

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LESSON FOUR: AFRICAN AMERICAN REDISCOVERY OF MUSLIM ROOTS

This lesson looks at African American Muslims of the 20th and 21st century. While Muslim slaves were not able to pass on their faith to their children, Islam re-emerged among African Americans in the 20th century. Among them were mainstream Muslim communities, as well as the Nation of Islam, which differs significantly from mainstream Islam. After W.D. Muhammad assumed the group's leadership, mainstream understandings of Islam became the norm. Today, notable African American Muslims serve in Congress and as academics, authors, entertainers, faith leaders, and athletes.

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LESSON FIVE: WHITE AND LATINO MUSLIMS

This lesson describes White and Latino American Muslims, in both the past, as well as contemporary times. The earliest White American Muslims were documented in the 1800s. The father of America’s first Muslim press was a White Muslim named Mohammed Alexander Russell Webb. Latino Muslims emerged in the 1970s in places like New York City where they formed several service organizations. Today notable White American Muslims are faith leaders, academics, authors and film producers.

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LESSON SIX: MUSLIM INFLUENCES ON AMERICAN CULTURE

This lesson highlights the ways that America has been influenced by Muslims. Many small towns in America have names that reference places in the Middle East. Ethnomusicologists point to a connection between the blues and melodies of West African Muslims. There has been a significant number of Muslim jazz and hip hop artists as well as rappers. Sufism has influenced many Americans and Rumi is a popular poet in the United States today.

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LESSON SEVEN: MUSLIM IMMIGRANTS

This lesson describes how Muslim immigration is a part of the larger immigration story of this country. Muslim immigrants came in four major waves, with the first beginning in the late 1800s. The second wave built the earliest immigrant mosques in the 1920s and 1930s and the third wave came after World War II. The largest wave of Muslim immigrants came after changes to immigration laws in 1965 which opened the door to Muslims from the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

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LESSON EIGHT: AMERICAN MUSLIMS TODAY

This lesson looks at American Muslim today. Large numbers of American Muslims are physicians, engineers, lawyers, academics, and other professionals. There are also a growing number of American Muslim celebrities and public servants who contribute to this country. American Muslim are your friends, neighbors, classmates, and co-workers. They share the same values of family, education and dedication to hard work as other American families.

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