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Louis Farrakhan (born Louis Eugene Walcott; May 11, 1933) is the National Representative of the Nation of Islam. He is an advocate for black interests, and a critic of American society. Farrakhan has frequently referred to Judaism as 'a gutter religion'. Farrakhan has been widely criticized and praised for his political views and often controversial rhetorical style. In 1996, he was awarded the Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights founded by the current Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi.

Early life

Farrakhan was born in The Bronx, New Yorkmarker and raised as Eugene Walcott within the West Indian community in the Roxburymarker section of Boston, Massachusettsmarker. His mother, Sarah Mae Manning, had emigrated from Saint Kitts and Nevismarker in the 1920s; his father, Percival Clarke, was a Jamaicanmarker cab driver from New York, but was not involved in his upbringing. Farrakhan's grandson Mustapha is a guard on the University of Virginiamarker basketball team.

As a child, he received training as a violinist. At the age of six, he was given his first violin and by the age of thirteen, he had played with the Boston College Orchestra and the Boston Civic Symphony . A year later, he went on to win national competitions, and was one of the first black performers to appear on Ted Mack Original Amateur Hour, where he also won an award. A central focus of his youth was the Episcopal St. Cyprian's Church in Boston's Roxbury section.In Boston, Walcott attended the prestigious Boston Latin Schoolmarker and English High School, graduating from the latter. He attended college for two years at Winston-Salem Teachers College, where he went to run track, but left to be with his wife (born Betsy Ross) in Boston who was pregnant with their child. Due to complications from the pregnancy, Walcott dropped out of college to devote time to his wife.

In the 1950s, he recorded several calypso albums as a singer under the name "The Charmer." One his famous songs Is She Is, Or Is She Ain’t? was about transwoman, Christine Jorgenson.

Nation of Islam

Early involvement

In 1945, while headlining a show in Chicagomarker entitled "Calypso Follies," he first came in contact with the teachings of the Nation of Islam. A friend from Boston, sometime saxophonist Rodney Smith, introduced him to the NOI's doctrine and he attended the annual Saviours' Day address by Elijah Muhammad. He joined the Nation of Islam in July 1955, becoming Louis X. The "X" was a placeholder following the dropping of the slave name, referring to the loss of the unknown surname of his slave forefathers, and preceding the Islamic name some Nation members are given later in their conversion.

Thirty days after that, Elijah Muhammad stated that all musicians in the NOI had thirty days from the date of this announcement to give up the music world completely. Farrakhan did so after performing one last time at the Nevel Country Club.

After joining the Nation of Islam, Farrakhan quickly rose through the ranks to become Minister of the Nation of Islam's Boston Mosque. He was appointed Minister of the influential Harlemmarker Mosque and served in that capacity from 1965 to 1975.


In 1977, after wrestling with the changes and consequent dismantling of the NOI structure by Warith Deen Muhammad, Farrakhan walked away from the movement. In a 1990 interview with Emerge magazine, he expressed his disillusionment with the changes and said he decided to "quietly walk away" from the organization rather than cause a schism among the membership. In 1978 with no public notice, Farrakhan and a small number of supporters privately decided to rebuild the original Nation of Islam upon the foundation established by Wallace Fard Muhammad and Elijah Muhammad.

In 1979, the Nation of Islam's newspaper, Muhammad Speaks was reestablished by Farrakhan under the name The Final Call. In 1981, Farrakhan and supporters held the first annual Nation of Islam Saviors' Day convention in Chicago since 1975. At the convention's keynote address, Farrakhan made his first public announcement of the restoration of the Nation of Islam under Elijah Muhammad's teachings.

On January 12, 1995, Malcolm X's daughter, Qubilah Shabazz, was arrested for conspiracy to assassinate Farrakhan. It was later alleged that the FBImarker had used a paid informant, Michael Fitzpatrick, to frame Shabazz. After Shabazz's arrest, Farrakhan held a press conference in Chicago in which he accused the FBI of attempting to exacerbate division and conflict between the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X's family. Nearly four months later, on May 1, U.S. government prosecutors dropped their case against Shabazz.

On May 6, 1995, a packed public meeting in Harlem, New Yorkmarker, termed A New Beginning, featured Louis Farrakhan and Malcolm X's widow, Betty Shabazz. Originally organized by community activists as a fund raiser for Qubilah Shabazz's legal defense, the meeting marked the first public rapprochement between Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam and the Shabazz family.

On October 16, 1995 Farrakhan convened a broad coalition of nearly 1.5 million men in Washington, D.C. for the Million Man March. Farrakhan, along with New Black Panther Party leader Malik Zulu Shabazz, Al Sharpton, Addis Daniel and other prominent black Americans marked the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March by holding a second march, the Millions More Movement on October 14, 2005 through October 17, 2005, in Washington.

In a 2005 Black Entertainment Television (BET) poll, Farrakhan was voted the 'Person of the Year'.

In a February 2006 AP-AOL "Black Voices" poll, Farrakhan was voted the fifth most important black leader with 4 percent of the vote.

Hurricane Katrina

In comments regarding the destruction of large parts of New Orleansmarker after Hurricane Katrina, Louis Farrakhan stated that there was a hole under one of the key levees that failed, and implied that the levee's destruction was a deliberate attempt to wipe out the population of largely black sections within the city. Farrakhan later said that New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin told him of the crater during a meeting in Dallas, Texasmarker. Farrakhan further claimed the fact that the levee broke the day after Hurricane Katrina is proof that the destruction of the levee was not a natural occurrence. Farrakhan has raised additional questions and has called for federal investigations into the source of the levee break.

These accusations, however, are countered by many experts, including the Independent Levee Investigation Team from the University of California, Berkeleymarker. The findings of this panel are that the overtopping of the levees by flood waters, the often sub-standard materials used to shore up the levees, and the age of the levees contributed to these "scour holes" found at many of the sites of levee breaks after the hurricane.

Praise for Barack Obama

Farrakhan said the Iraq War, the nation's faltering economy and the increased number of natural disasters were signs of "a nation in peril." He said those problems provide the broader context for then-Senator Barack Obama's popularity.

In response to Farrakhan's remarks, the Obama campaign promptly released a response distancing himself from the minister. "Senator Obama has been clear in his objections to Minister Farrakhan's past pronouncements and has not solicited the minister's support," said Obama spokesman Bill Burton. Obama himself "rejected and denounced" Farrakhan's support in an NBC debate.

Farrakhan subsequently denied his comments constituted an endorsement, saying he would not tell any one of his followers how to cast their vote, but that they should vote "their own self-interest."

Right-wing Web sites such as World Net Daily reported that during his February 24, 2008 "Saviours' Day" speech, Farrakhan called Obama "the Messiah". However, Farrakhan quoted in context during his speech, said, "Sen. Obama is not the Messiah for sure, but anytime, he gives you a sign of uniting races, ethnic groups, ideologies, religions and makes people feel a sense of oneness, that’s not necessarily Satan’s work, that is I believe the work of God."

Following the 2008 presidential election, Farrakhan explained during a BET television interview, that he was "careful" to never endorse Obama during his campaign. "I talked about him — but, in very beautiful and glowing terms, stopping short of endorsing him. And unfortunately, or fortunately, however we look at it, the media said I 'endorsed' him, so he renounced my so-called endorsement and support. But that didn’t stop me from supporting him."

Financial Support

A speech given by Louis Farrakhan on October 16, 2000 thanks LeVan Hawkins, Barry Hankerson, Prince Carl Kenai, Steve Harvey, and Russel Simmons for financial support.

Health problems

Farrakhan announced that he is seriously ill in a September 11, 2006 letter to his staff, Nation of Islam members and supporters. The letter, published in The Final Call newspaper, said that doctors in Cuba discovered an ulcer. According to the letter, subsequent infections caused Farrakhan to lose 35 pounds. He urged the Nation of Islam leadership to carry on while he recovers.

Farrakhan was released from his five-week hospital stay on January 28, 2007 after major abdominal surgery. The operation was performed to correct damage caused by side effects of a radioactive "seed" implantation procedure that he received years earlier to successfully treat prostate cancer.

Following his hospital stay, Farrakhan released a personal public "Message of Appreciation" to supporters and well wishers and weeks later delivered the keynote address at the Nation of Islam's annual convention in Detroitmarker.


Farrakhan has been the center of much controversy, and critics claim that some of his views and comments have been racist or homophobic. Farrakhan has categorically denied these charges, and has stated that much of America's perception of him has been shaped by media sound bites. This defense is echoed by religion scholar Mattias Gardell who argues that, when considered in the context of Farrakhan's typically lengthy lectures, many of Farrakhan's controversial comments take on a more nuanced or thoughtful meaning that cannot be conveyed in a sound bite.

H1N1 Vaccine Conspiracy Theory

On 10/21/2009, Farrakhan told an audience in Memphis he believes the H1N1 flu vaccine was developed to depopulate. During a gathering to observe the Nation of Islam's Holy Day of Atonement, which also marked the 14th anniversary of the Million Man March in Washington, the (Memphis) Commercial Appeal reported Farrakhan as saying:

"The Earth can't take 6.5 billion people. We just can't feed that many. So what are you going to do? Kill as many as you can. We have to develop a science that kills them and makes it look as though they died from some disease."

Allegations of Antisemitism

Several of Farrakhan's comments have been deemed antisemitic by the Anti-Defamation League. Farrakhan insists that he respects the religious traditions of all people of the book.

Jewish distributors

Farrakhan has alleged that in 1985, Jewish distributors blocked a major urban economic renewal initiative he championed which was dubbed "p.o.w.e.r." for People Organized Working for Economic Rebirth.

The initiative called for a joint enterprise of black businesses and organizations to produce and distribute a line of cosmetics and toiletries sold under the Clean & Fresh label. Major black haircare companies, including Johnson Products Co. backed out of the initiative fearing it could lead to accusations of anti-Semitism. Johnson Products owner George E. Johnson, Sr. maintained that his company's distributors told him that any dealings with Farrakhan's P.O.W.E.R. project would lead to having his own products boycotted. "We knew we could not offend our distribution channels," a Johnson spokesman, Dorothy McConner, said. "When I saw that," Farrakhan says, "I recognized that the black man will never be free until we address the relationship between blacks and Jews."

"Gutter religion"

In 1984, after returning from a visit to Libyamarker, Farrakhan delivered a sermon that was recorded by a Chicago Sun Times reporter. A transcript from part of the sermon was published in the New York Times:

Farrakhan has repeatedly denied referring to Judaism as a "gutter religion," explaining that he was instead referring to the Israeli Government's use of Judaism as a political tool. In a June 18, 1997 letter to a former Wall Street Journal editor, Jude Wanniski, he stated:

Neturei Karta

Farrakhan has had friendly relations with leaders of the Neturei Karta, a fringe Jewish group that is well-known for its association with and support for anti-Zionists. While they said that "Minister Farrakhan has in the past, at times, tended to negatively lump all Jews together in his rhetoric," Neturei Karta stressed that "Minister Louis Farrakhan is an extraordinary force for good in the Black community. His followers are responsible, industrious, modest and moral. And for this he and they have our respect."

"Black Hitler" characterization

During Jesse Jackson's 1984 presidential campaign, Jackson referred to New York Citymarker as "Hymietown" in a discussion with a black reporter. Though Jackson thought he was speaking off the record, the reporter printed the quote. Jackson was widely criticized for the slur and received numerous death threats, leading Farrakhan to announce, "If you [Jewish leaders] harm this brother, I warn you in the name of Allah, it'll be the last one you ever harm."

In response to Farrakhan's speech, Nathan Pearlmutter, then Chair of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith (ADL) referred to Farrakhan as the new "Black Hitler", and Village Voice journalist Nat Hentoff, while a guest on a New York radio talk-show, also characterized the NOI leader as a "Black Hitler".

In response, Farrakhan said during a March 11, 1984 speech broadcast on a Chicago radio station:

Farrakhan was censured unanimously by the United States Senate for the speech.

Farrakhan's Vision Experience

On October 24, 1989, at a Washington, DCmarker press conference, Farrakhan described a 1985 vision he had while in Mexicomarker. In his vision, he said he was carried up to "a Wheel, or what you call an unidentified flying object" as referenced in the Bible's Book of Ezekiel 1:15-18. During this vision experience he said he heard the voice of Elijah Muhammad.


In 2002 Louis Farrakhan went to Zimbabwemarker in support of President Robert Mugabe's intentions to enforce proposed seizures of white-owned land and property. The seizures were marked by violence and death and contributed to the collapse of farming and agriculture. Farrakhan said he was in "full support" of Mugabe's policies "as it was aimed at correcting a historical injustice".

Malcolm X's death

After a 60 Minutes interview which aired on May 14, 2000, CBS News said that Farrakhan's "incendiary rhetoric played a role in the 1965 assassination of civil rights leader Malcolm X."

On May 20, 2000, Farrakhan publicly rejected CBS News' characterization of the interview stating, "It appears that the aim of 60 Minutes, CBS and Mike Wallace was to make the American public believe that I, Louis Farrakhan, ordered the assassination of Malcolm X. It in no way reflected the spirit of Miss Shabazz and myself and our attempt to continue the path of reconciliation started by Dr. Betty Shabazz and me in 1994 and 1995."

In a June 5, 2000, interview titled 'Setting the Record Straight' with Jet Magazine, Farrakhan said "the interview was edited in such a way to give viewers the impression that Farrakhan had a role in Malcolm's death." Of the full four-hour interview, CBS edited the broadcast portion down to 12 minutes.

In a February 21, 1990 (which was also the 25th anniversary of Malcolm X's death) speech at Malcolm X College in Chicago, Illinoismarker, Farrakhan gave a presentation on "The Murder of Malcolm X" and the lingering effects of the assassination.

Farrakhan and classical music

When Farrakhan first joined the NOI, he was asked by Elijah Muhammad to put aside his musical career. After 42 years, Farrakhan decided to take up the violin once more, particularly due to the urging of prominent classical musician Sylvia Olden Lee.

On April 17, 1993, Farrakhan made his concert debut with performances of the Violin Concerto in E Minor by Felix Mendelssohn. Farrakhan said that his performance of a concerto by a Jewish composer was, in part, an effort to heal a rift between him and the Jewish community. The New York Times music critic Bernard Holland reported that while his performance was flawed due to years of neglect, "Mr. Farrakhan's sound is that of the authentic player. It is wide, deep and full of the energy that makes the violin gleam." Farrakhan has gone on to perform the Violin Concerto of Ludwig van Beethoven and has announced plans to perform those of Tchaikovsky and Brahms.

See also


  2. John B. Judis, He was a very good schoolboy hurdler at English. Maximum Leader, The New York Times, August 18, 1996, Accessed on May 19, 2006
  3. Sing - A - Long with Louis Farrakhan
  4. Farrakhan continues Hon. Elijah Muhammad's mission
  5. The FBI-Manufactured Plot to Kill Farrakhan
  6. A New Beginning; Minister Farrakhan and Betty Shabazz
  7. [1]
  8. Poll: Jesse Jackson, Rice Top Blacks, In Survey, 15% Of Blacks See Jackson As 'Most Important Black Leader' - CBS News
  9. Katrina survivors speak out
  11. :: ::
  14. Margaret Ramirez and Mike Dorning. Farrakhan sings Obama’s praises Senator has criticized him, says support not sought, Chicago Tribune, February 25, 2008 ]
  16. Farrakhan on Obama, Posted October 9, 2008
  17. Farrakhan addresses world at Saviours' Day 2008, March 5, 2008
  18. BET Interview with Minister Louis Farrakhan, Posted date: February 6, 2009
  19. [2]
  20. Letter from the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan
  21. FCN, January 30, 2007
  22. NOI Statements, 2007
  23. Farrakhan 2007 NOI Convention Webcast, February 25, 2007
  24. Nation of Islam condemns politically-motivated charges of racism [3], Nation of Islam Statements, Oct. 7, 2000
  25. Who is Farrakhan? [4], Interview with The Arizona Republic, March 25, 1996
  26. {{cite web |url=
  27. Letter to Journal News 12/31/99
  28. Black Candidates Live with More Fear
  29. Minister Farrakhan rebuts fraudulent "Judaism is a Gutter Religion" canard
  30. Press Conference Transcript: October 24, 1989
  31. CBS News 60 Minutes: Farrakhan Admission On Malcolm X, Video of admission
  32. Farrakhan responds to media attacks (Exclusive FCN Interview)
  33. Jet Magazine interview
  34. Min. Farrakhan responds to slanderous news reports on death of Malcolm X
  35. The Murder of Malcolm X: Farrakhan address at Malcolm X College, Chicago, IL., [5]

Further reading

External links

Farrakhan videos

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