The Messenger's Moral Character
EDITOR'S NOTE: During a1964 Laborers Meeting (available on CD), wherein Messenger Elijah Muhammad met with his Captains and Ministers, The Messenger, in response to the accusations made against his moral character, said, "If you want to know about my moral character ask Minister Benjamin and his (Minister Benjamin's) wife, Sister Clara Muhammad. When accusations that Messenger Elijah Muhammad had "more than one wife" surfaced in 1993, Muhammad Speaks went to Maryland to meet with Minister Benjamin & his wife.
Sister Clara Muhammad (Minister Benjamin's wife) had the following words to say concerning the Messenger's moral character and the accusation that the Messenger had more than one wife:
"His Moral Character was Superb!..."
"I don't know nothing about
no other wife than Sister Clara Muhammad."
"He loved her very much. He was right there by her side when she passed away...Holding her hand."
"All Black men should take an example from him
in the way he loved and treated his wife."
EDITOR'S NOTE: During our visit, we weren't able to speak directly with Minister Benjamin (he was not feeling well at the time), nevertheless, Sister Clara Muhammad gave us a book her husband wrote concerning how they first met Messenger Elijah Muhammad in 1935, and their coming into the Nation of Islam. The following information, including wordS, pictures, flyers, etc., are reprinted from his book:
My Christian slave name was Benjamin Elijah Mitchell. My Muslim name is Al-Wakeel Benjamin Ilyas Muhammad. Prior to choosing my Muslim name, I was called Benjamin X.
I was the oldest of 12 children born to farmers, Elijah and Sarah Bell Mitchell, September 7, 1901, in the town of Winchester, Arkansas (Drew County).
I was brought up in a Baptist Church and spent 21 years on the farm.
working from can to can't. What I mean by these terms is, we began work at daylight and worked until dark. During my 21 years on the farm, I learned many things about farm life, but I always wanted to be a builder. At the age of 13, I decided what I wanted to be--a carpenter.
I finished public school in my home town. A few months after finishing public school, I decided I wanted to attend Tuskegee Industrial School in Alabama. I continued to work on the farm with my father for two or three years hoping to make enough money each year so that I could go to Tuskegee Institute to learn a trade. Each year for about two years, my father did not make enough money to send me to school. The third year, my father gave me a little plot to work. That year, 1922, I was able to make three bales of cotton.
At the beginning of the 1922 crop season, my dad and I were plowing, making ready for planting cotton and corn. The sun was very, very hot, and my feet began to hurt. When I got to the end of the row, I sat down on the plow beam and began to rub my feet and ankles. They were paining me. When my father got to the end of his row, I said to him, "Will we have to work like this all of our lives each year and not get anything for it?" My dad replied, "No, sonny, we will get our pay up there." I replied "Up where, daddy?" He said "Up in heaven." I spoke up and said"I don't need anything after I am dead. I need something now."
We had been working for Mr. Peacock for a number of years, and each year he told us the same thing, "Well Elijah, you barely made it out of debt this year."
I said to my dad, "I am going to it to Tuskegee this year if I have to walk." That year, Allah blessed me to make three bales of cotton. After paying all of my crop bills, I had a few dollars left.
I told my mother that I was planning to go to Tuskegee to school in the fall and she reminded me that I had not heard from Tuskegee concerning my entering, But I told mother that I was going and if they didn't accept me I would come back home. Mother said, "You are crazier than I would be. You don't know whether they are going to accept you or not." Again I told mother that I would come back home if they didn't accept me.
I took off to Tuskegee in September 1922 and I was accepted. After paying for tuition, books and uniforms, I had about $60.00 left.
I had to go to night school during my first year and i worked during the day on my trade (carpentry). during my other years, I went to school one day and worked one day. I finished my trade one year before I finished high school. which was in 1927.
After graduation my first job as a carpenter was with the U.S. Government Hospital No. 90 in Tuskegee, Alabama. This was during the latter part of the summer of 1927.
My next job as a carpenter was with Tuskegee Institute, which was a few miles from the government hospital. While working there, I was contacted by a builder from Montgomery, Alabama. I then moved to Montgomery, Alabama, and there I met Miss Clara Bryant.
While working in Montgomery, Alabama, for a few months, I was recommended for a teaching job in Lake Charles, Louisiana, In the Second Ward High School as a Manual Training Instructor in Woodwork. I worked there one term (nine months).
At the end of the school term, I returned to Montgomery, Alabama. After being there for a few months, I was recommended for a job in Washington, D.C., with a contractor in 1929. While in D.C., I decided to take an examination for a job as a government carpenter. I took the test and passed, but didn't get an appointment until 1937.
In the year of 1930 (June 29), I got married to Miss Clara Bryant from Bainbridge Georgia. We moved into a small room at 1722 - 15th Street. N.W>, in Washington D.C., and lived there for several months. From there we moved to a larger room at 1447 R Street,N.W., second floor. In 1934, we decided to rent a five-room apartment at 1602 - 13th Street N.W. We lived at that address for four years or more.
In 1935, we placed a room-for-rent sign in our window. My sister, Sarah B., who was living with us at that time, was in charge of the apartment when my wife and I were out.
During our absence one day, a stranger came to our home in response to the room-for-rent sign. He introduced himself to my sister as Mr. Evans. He was permitted to see the room, and informed my sister that he would be back at 5:00p.m. to discuss the matter with me.
True, he did return at 5:p.m. He introduced himself as Mr. Evans. He stated that he had seen the room and it pleased him. He asked if he could move in. I told him he could. He mentioned that he would like for me to block out the transom over the door to the adjoining room. He explained that he would be using much light and didn't want to disturb us. He offered to pay for the use of extra light. I assured him that he could use all the light that he desired and no extra pay was necessary. Mr. Evans moved into the room.
I worked at the U.S. Navy Yard from 4:00 p.m. to 12:a.m. Every night upon my arrival at home, I would find Mr. Evans and my family up talking. He said he was doing missionary work among our people. He said to me, "Brother, I met with God, and He gave me a message to give my people." Astonished, I said, "God! Have you seen God?e answered "Yes" "You can't see God and live! What did He look like? Calmly, he replied, "He is black and He told me to tell my people to hurry and join onto their own kind because the end of this world has come."
He had been with us about seven days or more, but I had not seen him go out for food. On Wednesday he asked me if I drank coffee. I told him I did, and said I usually had coffee about 9:30 a.m. He said, "How about putting my name in the pot the next time you make coffee?" Eagerly, I said "yes sir" I seized this opportunity to invite him to dinner. He accepted the invitation.
The following morning Mr. Evans went out, bought all of the food, sat it on the table, I said, "That is a lot of food for sister (wife) to fix. "He took off his coat and replied, "I will help your wife to fix it." He put on an apron and taught my wife how to prepare the dinner.
After he bought two bags of food, sat them on the kitchen table, helped my wife to fix it, I felt that this made me look bad and I felt bad about the dinner since I invited him for dinner.
After preparing the food and setting the table, he asked me, "Brother, how are we going to eat all of this food?" I replied, "Don't ask me. I had wondered the same thing when I saw you bring all that food here."
Mr. Evans asked if I had some friends that I could invite to dinner. I told him that most of my neighbors were working but I would try to get someone. I did get two of my neighbors to come for dinner. Mr. Evans sat at the head of the table and prayed the Muslim way. Afterward, we began eating and he explained the Muslim prayer and the food that we ate. This was the beginning of many weeks, months, and years of talks with him. He was a wonderful mystery to us. He never ceased to amaze us, even to the day he died.
One day after he had lived in and out of my home for a number of months, he said, "Brother, I'll be out for a while and I am expecting a letter here. It may be in the name of J. Bogan." Immediately, I asked, "I thought you said your name was Mr. Evans?" He smiled and said to keep the letter for him if it came. I related the conversation to my wife and we wondered what kind of man was he--carrying two names.
A few weeks later, he said he was expecting another letter in the name of Mohammad Rassoul. We had no idea of the identity of this magnificent, mysterious man but we were awed by the wisdom, the density of his teaching, and his plans for us. We could not begin to comprehend the greatness of this little man, nor the profound effect that this plan given by his God would have on our lives so many years later. We loved him and we followed him throughout the land, even to jail.
During his ascent, he, through suffering and struggling, raised the black man of America to bring him to his God [Allah]. He was truly deserving of the position that he held, that is the most high, the mighty, the wise, the wonderful counselor. All praise is due to Allah, Master Fard Muhammad, for our leader, teacher and guide, the greatest Messenger of Allah, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
Now this little man that we know today as the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, Messenger of Allah, proved to the world that Allah, in the person of Master Fard Muhammad, to whom praise is due forever, did indeed visit these Western shores and did indeed talk to him face to face and raise him from the depths of ignorance to the heights of wisdom, knowledge and understanding.
After listening to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad's teaching (Islam), it cleared up many things that I had in my mind about Christianity. One of the things he made clear to me was the soul of man;, second, what and where is Heaven and Hell; third, what and where is God and the Devil; and forth, why we had not heard this teaching before.
After hearing him (the Messenger) defeat so many Christian preachers, teachers, and scholars, I said I would follow him because what he was teaching was the truth. I asked the honorable Elijah Muhammad if I could write for my Islamic name. He said, "Brother, I don't think you and sister (my wife) have understood the teaching well enough yet. Why not wait a while?" We waited, then we wrote for our name (X). My wife and I had a reply from Chicago stating that our letter had been okayed. I immediately showed it to him. He said, "Oh! I didn't mean for Sister Secretary to write this to you, about paying dues (money). Let me have that letter, I will have that corrected. When you learn to love Islam, you will pay charity without anyone asking or telling you.
After our registration in the Nation of Islam, I was blessed in many ways. One important way was that my health improved. I had eaten everything out there in Christianity and I was sick all of the time. I am sure that I would be gone if I had remained in the Church.
I remember one day we were having dinner. I had invited some Christian friends in to listen to this "Little Man" (Mr. Evans). He asked, "Have you all finished eating so quickly?" My sister told him that he sure could eat a lot. Mr Evans replied, "Well, you all will have to excuse me for eating so long. I really haven't had any food since Monday, and today is Thursday." Everyone at the table was astonished, and repeated together, "since Monday?"
One of the guests asked Mr. Evans how and why did he go so long without food. He replied,"Well, first, I don't eat many of the things that the Christians eat, such as the pig or hog and many of the scaleless fish and seafoods. Second, we should eat one good nutritious meal once every 24 hours." Everyone was astonished again and began to look at him with amazement. Mr. Evans asked, "Why are you looking at me so hard? Do I look all right?" One of the guests replied that he looked very good to have not eaten since Monday and then asked, "Aren't we supposed to eat three times per day?" "No," Mr. Evans replied, "Allah (God) said once per day is sufficient." Eating once every 24 hours will add years to your life. He went on to say that many of us dig our graves with our teeth. Three meals per day are too many meals. He said, third, to eat that poison animal will shorten your life. The Bible (Leviticus, Chapter 11) teaches us not to eat the pig or hog. Mr. Evans asked, "Doesn't your preacher teach you about the hog?" I replied, "He eats the hog himself!"
Mr. Evans (the Messenger) did most of his teaching at dinner time. He taught this strange teaching in many places in and around D.C.
One day, Mr. Evans asked me if I would help him with his mission. I replied that I would help and would do what I could. He took me around with him to churches and parks where our people would hang out. Sometimes, he would ask questions to get started teaching.
I remembered on one occasion, Mr. Evans came into the house and asked me if I knew where Green Valley, Virginia, was. He said that he had been listening to the news that morning and a reporter said that a group of black people had been taken from the steps of the Capital by the police and escorted to Green Valley, Virginia, for protesting some grievances concerning black people. I told him that I thought Green Valley was in Arlington, Virginia, just off Columbia Pike Road but it could be found. Mr.Evans said, "Brother, let's go and see if we can locate them." We took off to Arlington, Virginia looking for the people. After riding through the black neighborhood inquiring about some black people being brought from Washington D.C. to Green Valley, Virginia, for shelter under a tent, one young man said he knew where the people were and would show us the place. He got into the car with us and rode a short distance down into a little valley with green trees and a stream of running water. There we found a tent erected near the stream of water. A few yards from the tent, up the stream, we found two or three women down on their knees washing clothes in the stream of water. We spoke and introduced ourselves to them, asking if they were the ones who were arrested in Washington D.C., a few days ago? One of the ladies replied, "Yes we are." Mr. Evans asked, "Where is the leader of the group? They replied that he had been arrested and taken to jail and had left the other two with them. "Where are they?" Mr. Evans asked. One of the ladies replied, "One is under the tent, and the other is out at present." Mr. Evans asked if we could speak to the one that was there. They called the gentleman to the front to meet Mr. Evans and me. A heavy-set, dark brown man stepped forward, dressed like a Jewish Rabbi. Mr. Evans introduced himself and me and explained to him that he was doing some missionary work among black people in america. Mr. Evans started telling the gentleman about his work, but was soon cut off by the gentleman who was dressed like a Rabbi. He then began to tell us about what they were doing. Mr. Evans stopped talking and listened to him until he had talked out.
Mr. Evans asked him if he could have a few words. He said, "I have listened to you for quite a while. I would like to know where you are from" The gentleman replied that they were from Cincinnati, Ohio, and that they were black jews. "What was the charge the officers had against you all?" Mr. Evans asked. The gentleman said they were charged with protesting and demonstrating on the Capital steps. Mr Evans asked about the brother who was the leader of the group. The answer was? "We don't know. All we know is they took him from us and we haven't heard from or seen him since.
The women and children didn't have any food. Mr. Evans asked me if I had any money with me. I said that I had three or four dollars. He said, "I only have but a few dollars myself, but these sisters and their children need some money for food and transportation back to Cincinnati, Ohio." Mr. Evans suggested that we put our money together and give it to them for transportation back to their home. We did that and Mr. Evans told them that we would be back Friday and would bring some food for them. Mr. Evans and I went to the Safeway Food Store and bought a box of food supplies for them that Friday evening and took it to Green Valley, Virginia. Mr Evans presented the box of food to them and began to teach them of his Mission and they began to listen to him. The brother that was dressed up like a Jewish Rabbi spoke up and said, "Do you know our leader said to us that someone would come to our aid and help us back home?" They began to thank Mr. Evans with tears in their eyes and thanked God for sending this little man.
Now this great deed that Mr. Evans did for these people who were strangers made a great impression on me (Benjamin X). Why? Because I had never seen or heard of any black leader being interested in a group of people, especially when they had been arrested by U.S. Government officers on the U.S. Capital steps.
place (a hall or a large room) where he could invite some people. He checked on a building at the corner of Vermont Avenue and R Streets, N.W. He rented a room in that building for a few hours one Sunday afternoon. Mr. Evans then stood on the street in front of the building and invited people to attend a meeting on the second floor front for a few minutes. He was successful in getting a few people. At the end of the meeting, he asked if there were any questions. Some questions were asked and answered. Mr. Evans in return asked the group a few questions: "Did you enjoy the lecture? What do you think about the lecture? Would you all like to meet here again next Sunday?" All agreed that they would. He replied, "This room cost me $3.00 for three hours. We all can put in fifty cents each and be back here next Sunday at 3:00 P.M. "There were seven or eight people present. Mr Evans met there for a few Sundays.
The next meeting was in my living room at 1602 - 13th Street, N.W. We invited some friends and neighbors for the meeting. I went to the undertaker's parlor and borrowed a few chairs for the meeting and we had a grand time listening to Mr. Evan's lecture and then listening to how he answered the many questions. After that meeting, people began to call and ask questions about that little man: "Where did he come from? How long is he going to be with you?"
Another meeting was held in Langston Terrace, 21st and Benning Road, N.E. Washington D.C., in the Religious Center. A man by the name of Mr. Thomas View was in charge of the Center. One Sunday afternoon, Mr. Evans held a meeting with only a few converts, he said to them, "Brothers and Sisters, when you all get in the Center don't sit together. Scatter yourselves among the people so that you can hear and see what they are saying about me and what I am teaching. "We did as he said, and what a meeting we had! It lasted until late Sunday night. We left Mr. Thomas View's Center (he is known now as (Brother Thomas Sharieff) and went to Brother Charles X Miller's apartment to finish up the question period. From that meeting, Mr. Evans began to get more converts. My wife, Sister Clara, arranged a speaking engagement for Mr. Evans at the Y.W.C.A. at 901 Rhode Island Avenue, N.W. at that meeting he shocked his audience again.
In 1938, we took a weekend trip to Northern Virginia. We visited the Skyline Drive, Luay Caverns, and the Endless Caverns. This was at the end of the summer season when the trees began to drop their leaves. The mountain ranges were brown, tan, and green, and it was beautiful scenery.
as we were riding up and around the mountains, Mr. Evans asked questions like, "What makes rain, hail, snow, earthquakes, hills and mountains? "We answered "God." Mr. Evans looked at us, smiled and said, "Yes Brother and Sister all of this is caused by the son of man," and left it like that.
After arriving at Skyline Drive, which is approximately 85 miles from Washington D.C., we had lunch and began to make a tour of the caverns. On entering the caverns, we had to go down under the mountains a few hundred feet. The temperature was 70 to 72 degrees in the caverns. We found some very interesting things in the caverns, including rivers and lakes. We found a cathedral that was formed by nature from the rocks under the mountain. This naturally built cathedral had been equipped with a pipe organ to play music. We sat and listened to the music in the caverns as our escort explained the history of the caverns.
Our next visit was to the Endless Cavern, which was 20 to 25 miles northwest of Luray, Virginia. This place is called the Natural bridge, built by nature from rocks of the mountain.
The escort explained to us why this cavern was called endless. He said that the cavern was some 240 feet or more in the ground and said that no one had ever been to the end and returned. He went on to say that if anyone attempted to go to the end of the cavern, they would do so at their own risk. We came out of the cavern and returned to Washington D.C.
After moving from 1602 - 13th Street, N.W. to 713 - 13th Street, N.E., Mr. Evans began to speak stronger and bolder about his message to his people. This move was made in 1937. After a few months of living in northeast Washington, I wanted the people in that section of the city to meet and to hear this little man with this strange message. My wife and I invited 25 or 30 people into our apartment to hear Mr. Evans talk. Again we went to the undertaker's parlor and borrowed some chairs. Mr Evans had me to make him a small portable blackboard for this meeting. This meeting was very fruitful. The neighbors and their children began to love Mr. Evans. The little boys and girls would run and meet him when they saw him coming up or down the street. He always took time to talk with the little girls and boys. He would give them money from his pockets.
A few weeks after the meeting in our apartment, Mr. Evans said to me, "Brother I want you to build me a large blackboard so I can have it to teach from. I can explain to my brothers and sisters with a better understanding. We want to put our national, flag on it, with the sun, moon, and star and the cross." We brought the material for the blackboard and built it in my backyard at 713 13th Street, N.E. The board was 4'x6' long. I still have it. Mr. Evans used this blackboard to teach from and he converted many brothers and sisters. He converted me from that blackboard--his first blackboard. He really knew how to handle the two signs that were printed on the blackboard.
After the board was built, Mr. Evans seemed to have taken on a new spirit to teach Islam to our people.
I remember one weekend, Mr. Evans said to me, "Brother you know, I feel like teaching a little Islam. Do you know some preachers who have small churches where we can visit? We might get a chance to talk a little." I replied, "Yes, I do know one from my home town of Winchester, Arkansas. His name is Reverend L.M. Carroll. He lives in Warrenton, Virginia, and he has invited me to come visit his all-day church services at Sperryville, Virginia, which is about sixty miles from Washington. Meals are usually served at these all-day meetings on the church grounds."
My Evans (The Messenger) said, "Yes, Brother, I think I remember meeting that Reverend, when shall we go?" I said we could go up next Sunday. That following Sunday, Mr. Evans and I drove To Sperryville, Virginia, for the all-day meeting which was in the late summer of 1939. On our way up to the meeting, he began to instruct me on how to handle this dinner problem. "You know brother, these people are going to have plenty food and much of it will consist of the poison animal (the hog). Usually brother, the people on the farm bake some very good cakes, pies and make good ice cream. To keep from being so different, we will eat ice cream and cake with them. I will show you how to handle it.
After the service, instead of having dinner on the church grounds, we were invited with the minister, Reverend Carroll, and many others to the home of one of the Deacons.
True was the statement of Mr. Evans about the poison animal for dinner. The table had cakes, pies and ice cream. We stood and said blessing with them and proceeded to eat. Mr. Evans said to the group that we were on a diet and could not eat many of the foods on the table but we could have some of that good looking cake and ice cream.
While at the table, Mr. Evans was being asked many questions concerning Islam and he was answering without any trouble. Reverend Carroll was really looking and listening to Mr. Evans. All of the Reverend's followers began to look and listen. This made the Reverend angry to see his followers so interested in what Mr. Evans was teaching.
The Reverend jumped up from the table and said, You all seem to be so interested in what that little dude is saying. I know him. I heard about him in Washington, and I met him one time at Mitchelle's home. He is preaching against our government and I don't like it. You all sitting, looking and listening like you believe what he's saying. I don't like it either. I am ready to fight." Mr. Evans replied, "Your pastor doesn't care for me to talk to you on this subject," His members began to look at one another.
Mr. Evans said to me, "Brother, it's time for us to go, and we thanked the Deacon and the Minister for the invitation.
On our way back to Washington, Mr. Evans said, "Brother you see how angry the Reverend got about my answering the brothers' questions?" He knows if his followers continue to listen to what I am saying, they will believe Islam. This is why the ministers of Christianity will not permit Islam to be taught in the churches. They will tell you quick, "NO! NO! We can't have that teaching here. That is an Eastern religion. It's against our government." Mr. Evans then said to me, "Brother, when I get back to Washington, I am going to see if I can find a store front building and teach in it. Brother all of this is in the Bible under the title, Birth of Jesus. Actually brother, that is our history (The Birth of a Nation). They don't want this to happen. Therefore, they don't have room in the churches for Islam".
A few months later, Mr. Evans was successful in finding a store front at 1600 8th Street, N.W. After teaching there several months, he had some pamphlets made inviting the people to our services. He called himself Mr. J. Bogans. A few weeks later, Mr. Evans rented space in a Baptist Church at the corner of Fourth and L Streets, N.W. from Reverend Lambert. Our meetings were held after their Sunday services for two hours. The large board that I built was brought into the church so Mr. Evans could use it to explain the teaching of Islam.
Mr. Evans lectured for five or six Sundays at the church. The teaching was so strong and effective until Reverend Lambert began to fear and had the blackboard removed from the church.
When we went into the church that Sunday afternoon for our service, our blackboard was missing and no one seemed to know where it could be found. Mr. Evans told the brothers that we had to find that board. One of the brothers were pretty rough when he got angry. He stated that if Reverend Lambert didn't get that board, we would take him for a ride. The brothers got into the car and went up to Reverend Lambert's home and asked about the board. Reverend Lambert stated, "I don't know where it is." The rough-speaking brother spoke up and said, "Now listen Reverend, if you don't get that blackboard, we will have to take you for a ride." The Reverend got into the car with the brothers and directed them to a few places and they found the blackboard in a garage. The brother returned the blackboard to the Messenger [Mr. Evans].
During the month of July 23, 1941, Mr Evans had made plans to have a big meeting in the McKinley Memorial Baptist Church, Fourth and L Streets, N.W. He made up several hundred pamphlets and put them into the hands of many people. Since Reverend Lambert, minister of McKinley Memorial Baptist Church, didn't want us to have any more services in his church, Mr. Evans decided to see if the minister in the 1300 block of H Street, N.E., would let him use his store front Baptist church to lecture to his people. Mr. Evans showed the minister a few of the pamphlets that he had printed of the week of July 23, 1941. The minister then asked Mr. Evans to wait until he had talked with some of the other ministers about the subjects.
The Messenger of Allah, Mr. Evans, waited and waited for an answer from the minister but never received permission to use his store front church.
Many of these pamphlets got into the streets of Washington, D.C., and many of the people began to be fearful of such powerful and timely subjects. Many of these pamphlets got into the U.S. Government buildings. A few weeks later the U.S. Government put out radio and newspaper notices that said, Notify the FBI if you know of anyone speaking against the U.S. Government. This was the beginning of a special hunt for Mr. Evans (Please see example of one of the pamphlets on page 14.)
The first official temple was set up by Mr. Evans (the Messenger of Allah), the Honorable Elijah Muhammad (may Allah be pleased with his work), in awakening the Black man and woman in America.
The Messenger and his few followers and believers were successful in finding another store front building at 1525 or 1527 Ninth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. During the fall of 1940, we began to hold our regular meetings at 8:00 p.m., Wednesday and Friday, and Sundays from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
At that time, we referred to the black man and woman as the Lost-Found Nation of Islam in the Wilderness of North America. The Messenger began to break down from the blackboard the meaning of the wording that was written upon the board to all of us. His way or method of teaching from the board was very effective to open-minded brothers and sisters. At the end of the meeting, Mr. Evans (the Messenger) would have a question and answer period. Many interesting points and answers were explained and made clear to many of the Christians. The black people in the early and late 30's were very, very fearful of the teachings of Islam. The Messenger stated to us many times that if you had an audience of 100 and taught them Islam, you would do well to convert three out of that 100. The Messenger and his followers in the 30's and early 40's really had some hard knocks and insults in establishing the teaching of Islam in North America.
During the latter part of 1940, 1941, and 1942, the Islamic tension was high among the religious leaders of Christianity and the U.S. Government, especially after some of those pamphlets that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad had printed for services to be held in the McKinley Memorial Baptist Church. Tension began to grow among the black ministers and their followers. News was being broadcasted weekly, advising Americans to report anyone speaking against the Government. I was, at that time, working for the U.S. Navy Yard and America was at odds with the government of Japan.
One afternoon when I reported for work, one or two employees asked me about these pamphlets that were being distributed in the streets of Washington. They asked what kind of religion was Islam since they hadn't heard of it until a few days ago? I replied that I didn't know to much about it and suggested they visit the temple and ask questions since I had been told that they would permit you to ask questions.
The tension began growing more and more in Washington D.C. The U.S. Government was registering men for the army from 18 years to 40 years. One believer and follower of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad by the name of Brother Harry X Craighead was called by the U.S. Government for service in the Army. Brother Harry refused to register on the ground that he was a Muslim and Muslims do not fight on the side with Christians. The FBI told Brother Harry that they would put him in prison if he didn't fight for his country. Brother Harry said, "Well, you will have to put me in prison, because I will not go and fight." So they arrested Brother Harry. The President of the United States (President Roosevelt) told the FBI to make a thorough investigation of this case and bring him the findings. He said,"This is a Christian Government and we don't teach Islam here. If we permit that, they will have all of these Negroes calling themselves Moslem (Muslim) and we are at war,"the FBI agents began making more arrests in the Washington area and in the Chicago area also Detroit and Milwaukee.
The second or third brother to be arrested was Brother John X Miller, who is now the Minister (Imam) of Williamsburg, Virginia, Masjid. Brother Elmer X. Carroll and Brother Joseph X Nipper were the next to be arrested. The hunt for Muslims (or Moslems) by the FBI, was very, very hot. This was during the months of March and April in 1941.
In the year of 1940, I moved from 713 - 13th Street N.E., in Washington, to 1205 - 51st Avenue, N.E. (Deanwood Park, Maryland).
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad (Mr. Evans) at that time or period had rooms in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. He came out to see the house my wife and I were trying to buy. The house was very, very old and needed many repairs. I remember one day he came out and I was up on the roof making repairs. The Messenger said to me, "Brother if I had the money, I would give it to you so you could get someone to help you make the repairs that are needed. That's a lot of work for you to do by yourself." Once when he came out to see me, he was driving an old used car, a black Buick. He said to me, "Brother, I have some reports to get out to Chicago, and I am going to take my work in my car over there under the shade trees on Lee Street and work on them. You will see where I am from the roof top where you are working and I can see you." Time continued to roll on and the FBI continued looking for the Honorable Elijah Muhammad (Mr. Evans) and his followers.
have some reports to get out to Chicago, and I am going to take my work in my car over there under the shade trees On Lee Street and work on them. You will see where I am from the roof top where you are working and I can see you." Time continue to roll on and the FBI continued looking for the Honorable Elijah Muhammad (Mr. Evans) and his followers.
Some months later (8 or 10), He rented a room from Mr. and Mrs Williams at 1306 Girard Street, N.W. on May 6, 1942, Mr. Evans had one of the believers, Brother Henry X. who was a taxicab driver, to bring him to my home for a chat. We were sitting on my front porch. The Messenger said to me, "Brother, I would like to talk to you privately for a few minutes before I go back to D.C." I replied, "Yes Sir, you surely can," I asked Brother Henry X if he would excuse us for a few minutes. Mr. Evans and I walked under a Large tree in my front yard, he looked straight at me and said, "Brother, I am leaving for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, this afternoon and I want you to do something for me." He asked me to take his car and two suitcases to his wife in Chicago if anything happened to him. I asked, "What do you mean if something happens to you? "He looked at me and smiled and said, "Well brother, you know anything can or might happen at this time. "That statement excited me. I asked where the car was. He said the car was in the garage. He gave me the keys and told me to ask Mrs. Williams for his two bags. This was the Wednesday before Easter Sunday.
Brothers and Sisters, I was so excited when Mr. Evans made the statement that anything might happen and then asked me if I would take his car and bags to his wife in Chicago, Illinois. I told him that I would, but the statements that he made still lingered with me. I wondered what he meant by saying if something happened to him.
Well, Mr. Evans and Brother Henry left to go back to D.C. Mr. Evans remained in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Thursday night and returned to Washington, D.C., Friday, May 8, 1942
According to his landlady, Mrs. Williams, when Mr. Evans came to his place of residence at 1306 Girard Street, N.W., he came into the house by the rear door. Mrs. Williams also stated that she ran to the rear of the house to warn Mr. Bogan (the Honorable Elijah Muhammad) not to come in because two men were there to arrest him. Mr. Bogan asked, "For what?" and kept going into the house. As he entered, the two men rose to their feet and asked if he was Bogan. They stated that they were FBI agents. They showed their identification card and informed Mr. Bogan that they wanted to talk with him at the FBI office about his religion. Mr. Evans, Mr. (Bogan) submitted and went with them. This happened the Friday before Easter and he stated to us that he remained in their office all of Friday, Saturday, and a portion of Sunday and was questioned by the government officials concerning the religion of Islam. The FBI agents crucified Mr. Evans the Friday before Easter, May 8, 1942. The news quickly spread that the FBI had arrested this much-wanted man, teacher of Islam. They kept him in the D.C. jail for a few months.
Mrs Williams called me the Friday evening after his arrest and said that FBI agents came and arrested Mr. Bogan. She said that they had been sitting around the house for two or three days. Friday they came into the house and said that they were looking for him and desired to wait for him. She went on to say that when Mr. Bogan came in the back way she begged him not to come in because FBI agents were going to arrest him. "They took him and I wanted to call to let you know of his arrest," she said. I thanked Mrs. Williams for letting me know. I then thought about what Mr. Evans had asked me to do for him on Wednesday, May, 6, 1942, under the tree in my front yard. He asked me to take his car and two bags to his wife in Chicago if anything should happen to him.
Late Friday, May 8, 1942, I began to make ready to take Mr. Evan's car to his wife in Chicago. I left D.C. alone on Saturday morning about 1:30 a.m. I took Route U.S. 30 arriving in Chicago Saturday evening about 5:30 or 6;00 p.m., and made my report to his wife, Sister Clara Muhammad.
The news of Mr. Evans arrest spread fast. A few days after his arrest, the followers of the Messenger came together to picket the jail and to protest to the government for the arrest of our leader and teacher. The news media stated that 25 Moslems (Muslims) picketed the jail of the Prophet.
Mr. Evans asked the Jail Superintendent, Mr. E.A. Green, to lock us up because we believe the same as he believes. Mr. Green said, "I can't lock them up. They will have to do something." The Muslims cried out, "We believe in the same thing that the Messenger believes, so lock us up too."
A few days passed. The news began to spread about Messenger Muhammad being in jail. Early one morning, two Muslim brothers from Temple No. 2 and No. 3 came to see about Mr. Evans. Minister Willie Muhammad of Temple No. 2 in Chicago and Minister Sultan Muhammad of Temple No. 3 in Milwaukee came seeking information concerning the Messenger. I related to them what had happened.
These two men looked so clean and dignified, and seemed to be noticed by every one that passed by them. These two brothers wanted to go down to the FBI office to find out why Mr. Evans was arrested. Before I took them downtown to the FBI office, they asked me to take them by the U.S. Supreme Court. When we arrived there, they stood in front of the Court building looking at the statues of nine men engraved on the front gable end of the building. These two brothers were discussing something about the carving on the front of the building. I
was standing a short distance from them, admiring the way the people were attracted by these brothers. They really did look dignified and impressive. The people seemed to be on their lunch period.
After standing there for 15 or 20 minutes, they decided to walk on down to the FBI office. They went in and began to inquire about the Honorable Elijah Muhammad's arrest. The officers began to question these two men. The questioning finally ended in their arrest. Brother Sultan Muhammad of Temple No. 3 was arrested and charged. Brother Willie Muhammad, The Messenger's brother, asked the FBI agents to permit him to go back to his hotel room to take care of some very important business and then he would return to the FBI office. They permitted him to go. That following morning, Brother Willie Muhammad returned to the FBI office as promised. This was the beginning of their imprisonment. These two brothers were eventually sent back to their home town for trial and sentence.
The Messenger of Allah (Mr. Evans) was held in the D.C. Jail for a few months before being released on bail. His bail was set at $5000.00. The bail money had to be raised by a few followers selling old papers and scrap iron. The $5.000.00 was finally raised in the Chicago and Milwaukee temples. Sister Clara Muhammad, wife of the Messenger, arrived in Washington D.C., dressed in a long white robe. She carried a white bag containing the money in pennies, nickles, dimes, quarters and dollars that was raised by his poor followers.
The Messenger was released from the jail for a few months and was arrested again.
The hunt for believers and followers of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad began to get very, very hot. As I stated in the beginning of my writing, I was employed by the U.S. Government. When I was first introduced to the Messenger, he saw that I liked what he was teaching and wanted to become a follower of his. He told me in advance, "Brother, if you follow me, you will be locked up and you will lose your job," I replied "They will have to lock me up."
About three months after the Messenger's arrest, I began to have visits from the FBI agents. I remember one evening while working in my garden at 1205 - 51st Avenue, N.E., Deanwood Park, Maryland, two neatly dressed men came walking up the road to my home and approached me in this manner: "Are you Mr. Mitchell? "I replied, "No sir," One asked, "What is your name?" I replied "Really, I do not know." "Well who is Mr. Mitchell?" asked one of the agents. I said, "Mr. Mitchell is a white man. You know I am not white." The other spoke up and asked me what was my name. I again replied that I didn't know. One of the agents asked why I didn't know. I said, "Because I lost my name about 379 years ago. I am surprised at you asking me if I am Mr. Mitchell.
You know that all of our people are named after your people." They then showed me their identification cards. I took the card and said, "Oh! You are FBI men. What can I do for you?" They replied, we want to talk with you about your religion. I asked "What do you want to know about my religion?" They asked me if I had registered. I replied that I had. They asked where I had registered. I replied, "With my government." "Your government?" one asked. "What is your government?" "Islam," I replied. "Were you not born here?" he asked. "Yes sir, I was," I answered. All persons born in this country are naturalized citizens. I replied, "No sir, I disagree." "Well, what are you?" one agent asked. I replied, "just a free slave." One agent then said that I must remember that I was born here and that makes me a citizen. I said "Look, officer, one of us dosen't know what a citizen is. What is your definition of citizen?" I asked. The agent began to recite to me the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. I asked the officer if our people enjoyed all of those things that he quoted for a citizen. He replied "Some of them." I said, "Then we are not citizens until our people enjoy all of those things that constitute a citizen. Because I was born here doesn't make me a citizen. Because a cat gives birth to kittens in a cooking stove, doesn't make them biscuits."
One of the agents said, "We can't report all of this." "Why can't you?" I asked, Just tell your boss that I have registered in my government. I can't register with two governments." They departed and went their way.
About one month later, an agent came on my job to talk with me concerning my religion. He wanted to know if I had registered and how long I had been a Moslem (Muslim)? I told him that I had registered in my government and I had been a Muslim all my life but I didn't know it. He asked, "Who taught you that you are a Moslem?" "Allah's Messenger," I replied.
A month or more later, while working on my home at 1205 - 51st Avenue, N.E. I was laying some flooring in my living room. I looked through the window and I saw a well-dressed white man approaching the house. I asked my wife to see what he wanted, and told her if he wanted me to tell him I had not arrived home from work. He told my wife to tell me when I arrived that he was from the U.S. Government office. A week later, I said to my wife, "I don't feel like I will be back home this evening. I have a feeling that someone is coming on my job for me." Sure enough, two agents came on my job August 1, 1942. They came in the room where I was working and asked, "Are you Mr. Mitchell?" I replied, "No I am not." The agent asked, "What is your name?" I replied, "I lost my name a few hundred years ago. I am called Mr. Mitchell, but that is not my name." The other agent said, "Well, who is Mr. Mitchell?" I replied, "Mr. Mitchell is a white man. All of our people are named after your people. I am sure that you all knew that." The agents showed me their I.D. cards and stated that they had come for me. I asked them for what? The replied, "You didn't register." I immediately spoke up and said, "Yes, I have registered with my government." The agents said, "We will have to take you down to the FBI office". On our way to the office riding in the car, I was sitting on the left side in the rear seat. One agent asked questions. He asked, "Would you mind if I call you Benjamin?" I replied, "No, you may call me Benjamin." "How long have you been a 'Moslem'?" he asked. "All my life," I replied. The agent questioned further, "Why don't you all teach us Islam?" "We did teach you Islam," I said, "Why don't you all let us come to your Temple?" he asked. "For the same reason that you won't let me come to your Temple, here on K Street, N.W." I replied. At that moment we drove past the white Shriner's Temple. The agent said, "I am not a mason." He asked me how much money I had given to the Messenger. I spoke up and said, "Officer, I think that's a very personal question. I don't know what you would think of me asking you how much money you gave your wife each week." I left it like that.
On arriving at the FBI office, they set my bond at $5,000.00 I remained in the D.C. Jail for three months or more before they brought me up for trial.
During my stay in D.C. Jail, many more of our brothers and one or two sisters were arrested by FBI agents. Brother William X Fagin, a young brother, was sentenced to four years in the Federal Prison for Selective Service violations. They sent us to Petersburg, Virginia in November 1942. We stayed in the isolation ward for 30 days, then we were allowed into the general prison population. In the population, we found our brother, Harry X Craighead (now deceased), who was the first brother in the Washington, D.C. Temple to be arrested for Selective Service violations. After being in the general population for a few weeks, the inmates began to ask us questions about our religion, Islam. Three of us began to explain to the inmates the teachings of Islam. The officer in charge of our dormitory began to stand around and listen. The officer reported what we were doing to the warden and other top officials. One Sunday afternoon, we heard our numbers yelled out over the P.A. system (Inmates are called by numbers instead of names.) While resting on our bunks, a call was made for Nos. 11942, 11943, and 1040 to report to the Administration office and to bring all personal belongings. This call was made two times. After the second call, I asked Brother Harry, "Aren't those our numbers that were called? What does he mean by "bring all your personal belongings?" Brother Harry replied that those were our numbers and that personal belongings meant our toothbrush and drinking cup. We reported to the Administration office.
The officer in charge said that we were to be put in confinement. That Monday morning, we were called before 12 officials for trial. They charged us with inciting a riot in the institution Sunday night. We pleaded "not guilty" to the charge, We told the officials that we were not at the dormitory and that they had us locked in confinement. The officials said that the inmates tried to wreck the dormitory Sunday night and that it all came from that Islam teaching that we did last week.
Each one of us was given 19 days solitary confinement. We were locked in a small room and ate white bread and drank black coffee. We slept on a thin mattress with a blanket on a basement concrete floor. They tried to force us to eat hog meat. But we wouldn't. When the 19 days were up, they served the total prison population a lamb dinner for the first time in the history of the prison.
After serving the 19 days in confinement, instead of returning us to the general prison population, we were transferred to another prison in Milan, Michigan, in January 1943. There we completed our four years.
About three months after our arrival, the Friday before Easter in 1943, that they were expecting two more of our "Moslem" brothers that afternoon. The officer looked toward the administration building and said, "that looks like them now coming through the gate." We rushed to the front gate to see who the brothers were, and behold: it was the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Brother Minister Lynn Karriem of Chicago.
The Messenger was locked behind the prison bars for five years. During his lockup, the prison officials tried him out with food that was cooked with hog meat and also tried to work him in the pig house where hogs were raised. A few weeks after the arrival of the Messenger, one officer was sent out with a truckload of work-release inmates to the piggery. When the truck arrived, the officer said, "O.K., fellows, this is our working spot." All of the workers got off the truck except the Messenger. He remained on the truck and said to the officer, "I am willing to work, but not in this hog house. If you have another job that you could give me, I would appreciate it very much. Working with hogs is against my religious belief." "The officer said," I will take you back to the office for further instructions." On returning to the office with the Messenger, the officer reported that he had an inmate whose name was bogan that could not work in the piggery because it was against his religion. The Captain said to the officer, "I didn' t intend for you to take him out there." The Captain said to Bogan, "Your job will be to take care of the Officer"s Quarters as long as you are here."
A few weeks later, after Messenger Muhammad had settled down to the prison assignment (job), he began to hold Muslim services each Sunday at 2 p.m. The Muslim Brotherhood in the institution numbered about 10 or 12. They were from Chicago and Washington, D.C.
The Muslims who went to prison for believing in Islam and following the Honorable Elijah Muhammad were really tried by the officials of this Christian government. I remember a few months months before the Messenger was transferred to the prison in Milan, Michigan, the officials had us (Brothers Harry X Karriem Allah, Emanuel Muhammad and Benjamin I) unloading some cars of soft coal along with some real hard criminals. Guards were on each end of the cars and were standing on the ground with high-powered rifles, keeping watch over us as if we were murderers. Our faces and clothing were black with coal dust.
Finally, one day while working on the farm, an officer called for me to report to the Carpenter's Shop for work. I remained in the Carpenter's Shop until my four years were served.
Brother Harry X was released from the prison long before many of the other brothers because he was the first brother in the Washington area to be imprisoned for the teachings of Islam. He returned to Washington, D.C. and became the Acting Minister of Temple No. 4.
The brothers who followed the Messenger to prison in the early days of Islam in America had it pretty hard trying to survive. You may ask why? Well, in the first place, they (Caucasians) didn't want you and me to be taught Islam because Islam would free you and me from them.
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad and those who followed him to prison went hungry many times before the enemy found out that we were true believers and followers of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. The enemies of truth will hate you. I remember the day of my trial and the transferring of Brother Wallie X Fagin (better known as Wali Muhammad) and myself to Petersburg Federal Prison. While riding in the car with cuffs on our legs, the officer asked, "You fellows would rather go to prison than to sign on the dotted line and go on back home to your families?" "Yes sir," I replied. The officer said as he looked at me and gritted his teeth, " if I had my way with you, I would shoot every one of you."
I learned in Islam that the disbelievers will continue to try to persuade or influence the believers to follow them. I remember one week while in prison, The Muslims had not eaten a full meal for four days or more. The chief cook in the institution called out over the P.A. system that the Muslims could report for dinner. "We have a pork free navy bean dinner for you," he said. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad happened to be in his dormitory at the time the call was made. When we Brothers came in from work at noon, the Messenger told us to report to the dining hall for a specially prepared dinner for us. He said, "You all may go if you care to. I am not going. I don't care for anything."
We Muslim brothers reported to the dining hall and had our bowls filled to the top because we had not eaten anything but white bread, water and coffee. We all were sitting at the table. Before eating any of the beans, The Messenger's son, Emanuel, found some small blocks or squares of white pork meat cut up and cooked in the beans. Brother Emanuel Muhammad said to us, "Pork is in the beans," We rechecked and found the pork. All of the brothers sat at the table quietly. The officer of the dining hall came to our table and asked, "What's wrong with the beans? I see you are not eating." Brother Emanuel replied, "You have pork in the beans." The officer said, "Those beans are pork free." Brother Emanuel showed the pork meat to the officer. The officer of the dining hall called the chief cook of the kitchen to the front and said, "They claim that you have small blocks of pork meat in the beans and they are not going to eat." The chief cook replied, "It's not supposed to be any pork in the beans. I told the cook not to cook pork in the beans." Brother Emanuel handed a spoonful to the chief cook. He tasted it and said, "Yes, pork is in the beans. You brothers are not required to eat the beans." We dismissed ourselves from the table and returned to our dormitory.
We reported to the Messenger what had happened and he said, "Well brothers, you see the enemy of Islam is trying to get us to bow to him." Later, the chief cook explained to us what happened to the supposedly pork free bean dinner. He said the cook in the kitchen at the institution was a member of the white Jehovah's Witnesses and they were enemies of Islam. One of the witnesses thought that he could cut up fine pieces of pork and we wouldn't be able to tell the difference.
The penal institution didn't permit the Muslim Bible (Quran) into the institution at that time. My wife was permitted to visit me. Also, the Messenger's wife was permitted to visit him.
After I had finished my four year sentence and was ready to come home, they tried to make me bow to them. They told me that I had to sign a card before I could be released so the FBI wouldn't arrest me again for not registering for service. I replied, " I didn't register to come into the prison, and I am not going to register to go out of the prison." The officer signed the card and handed it to me. They gave me a new suit, shoes and $20.00. I was taken to Toledo, Ohio to catch the train to Washington, D.C. This was in October 1945. The officer said to me, "Mitchell, because of your good record here in prison, I am giving you $20.00 instead of $10.00. I arrived home safe and happy to see my wife and friends and was not injured or shot in the war. I give praise and thanks to Allah for sparing me to live to write this history. I thank the Honorable Master Elijah Muhammad for opening my blind eyes to the teachings of Islam.
Muhammad Speaks Newspaper
P.O Box 44261
Detroit, MI 48244