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In our final note for Black History Month, we shine a light on some notable contemporary African American Muslims who continue to enrich American society in diverse fields.
Well-known African American Muslim university professors include among many others, (pictured above from left to right, by row), Aminah McCloud, Intisar Rab, Sherman Jackson, Fatimah Jackson, Jamilah Karim, Abdullah bin Hamid Ali, Amina Wadud, Zaid Shakir, and Dawood Yasin. Zaid Shakir and Abdullah bin Hamid Ali are instructors at Zaytuna College in the Bay Area.
There has been a growing number of mainstream African American Muslim politicians, including the first Muslim Congressmen Keith Ellison in Minnesota (shown above top right), and Andre Carson in Indiana (shown above bottom right), as well as in local government: former Mayor Jack Ellis of Macon, Georgia.
In the early 20th century, African American Muslim musicians played an important role in the development of the “New Jazz,” combining African and Caribbean themes with the older blues tradition. Yusef Lateef, Dakota Staton (Aliyah Dawud), Kenny Clarke (Liaqat Ali Salaam), Ahmad Jamal, Pharaoh Sanders, and John Coltrane (“A Love Supreme”) belong to a long and illustrious list of Black musicians who embraced Islam or were favorably disposed toward it. Today, many rappers self-identify as Muslim, including Q-Tip, Mos Def, and Lupe Fiasco.
Beyond the well-known examples of the three-time heavyweight boxing champion of the world Muhammad Ali, and professional basketball legend, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, there are a growing number of athletes, such as Ahmad Rashad, a professional football player who later became a newscaster. More recently, Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir became the first high school basketball player in Massachusetts to score 3,000 points in a career – while wearing hijab. Sabre fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad is the first Muslim woman to compete for the U.S. in an international competition wearing hijab.
These are but a few of the many African American Muslims who have contributed and continue to contribute both to the fabric of American society, and to the richness of the American Muslim community.
Educators can learn more about the rich history of African American Islam by downloading our free interactive curriculum , or requesting a live presentation on A History of Muslims in America.