When speaking about the history of Islam in the United States, the discussion naturally goes to the history of immigration from the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent as this is what most people think of when considering the issue.
At the same time, the discourse, unfortunately, does not encompass the important history and the role of black Americans in the history of Muslims in this part of the world. Indeed, when Muslims of immigrant heritage speak about reaching out to black Americans, they should keep in mind that this includes a substantial part of their own community who deserve their love and support.
When examining the roots of black Muslims in the United States, one cannot overlook the critical role slavery played in this.
One of the dark stains on the history of the United States was the institution of slavery, which was manifestly racist in that it was exclusively against black people, and Muslims were unfortunately caught up in this.
Thankfully, there has been a substantial academic investigation into this subject with many scholars documenting the cases of individual Muslims who were taken as slaves.
According to Caravan Daily, Sylviane Diouf is one of these scholars who has documented many such cases, including that of Omar Said who left behind manuscripts in Arabic. In addition to the degradation that all slaves in the Americas faced, Muslims endured further persecution on account of their religion with their masters imposing Christianity upon them.
Consequently, many feigned adherence to the religion of their masters to avoid such treatment, and after several generations, traces of Islam all but disappeared amongst the population. Despite this history, Islam would reemerge amongst their descendant generations later.
When examining the history of black people living in the United States, the role of Islam cannot be neglected. Not only do they make up a substantial part of the Muslim population in the United States, but they arrived in these shores with the arrival of slavery.
Furthermore, there is evidence that many such people did their utmost to preserve their religion despite their circumstances. In at least one case, one such person Ibrahima Abdul Rahman bin Sori was the subject of a book Prince Among Slaves which documented his life from living like a prince in modern day Nigeria to being captured and establishing a family there before going back to Liberia. Without a doubt, the history of black Muslims in the United States is rich and requires further investigation.