Elijah Muhammad (born Elijah Robert Poole; October 7, 1897 – February 25, 1975) was an American Muslim religious leader, who led the Nation of Islam (NOI) from 1934 until his death in 1975. He was a mentor to Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan and Muhammad Ali, as well as his own son, Warith Deen Mohammed.
Muhammad preached his own version of Islam to his followers in the Nation. According to him, blacks were known as the ‘original’ human being, original Asiatics, had a rich cultural history which was stolen from them in their enslavement with whites being an offshoot race that would go on to oppress black people for 6,000 years. He preached that the Nation of Islam’s goal was to return the stolen hegemony back to blacks across America. Much of Elijah Muhammad’s teachings appealed to young, economically disadvantaged, African-American males from Christian backgrounds. Traditionally, Black males wouldn’t go to church because the church did not address their needs. Elijah Muhammad’s program for economic development played a large part in the growth in the Nation of Islam. He purchased land and businesses to provide housing and employment for young black males.
In 1934, the Nation of Islam published its first newspaper, Muhammad Speaks, later it became ‘The Final Call’ , to educate and build membership. By the 1970s, the Nation of Islam owned bakeries, barber shops, coffee shops, grocery stores, laundromats, night-clubs, a printing plant, retail stores, numerous real estate holdings, and a fleet of tractor trailers, plus farmland in Michigan, Alabama, and Georgia. In 1972 the Nation of Islam took controlling interest in a bank, the Guaranty Bank and Trust Co. Nation of Islam-owned schools expanded until, by 1974, the group had established schools in 47 cities throughout the United States. In 1972, Muhammad told followers that the Nation of Islam had a net worth of $75 million.