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Louis Farrakhan, Sr.
Louis Farrakhan, Sr. (born Louis Eugene Wolcott; May 11, 1933, and formerly known as Louis X) is the leader of the religious group Nation of Islam (NOI). He served as the minister of major mosques in Boston and Harlem, and was appointed by the longtime NOI leader, Elijah Muhammad, as the National Representative of the Nation of Islam. After Warith Deen Muhammad disbanded the NOI and started the orthodox Islamic group American Society of Muslims, Farrakhan started rebuilding the NOI. In 1981 he revived the name Nation of Islam for his organization, previously known as Final Call, regaining many of the Nation of Islam's National properties including the NOI National Headquarters Mosque Maryam, reopening over 130 NOI mosques in America and the world. The Southern Poverty Law Center describes Farrakhan as antisemitic and a proponent of an anti-white theology. Farrakhan himself, however, disputes this view of his ideology.
Farrakhan is a black religious and social leader. Farrakhan has been both praised and widely criticized for his often controversial political views and outspoken rhetorical style. He has been criticized for remarks that have been perceived as antisemitic, anti-white and homophobic. In October 1995, he organized and led the Million Man March in Washington, D.C., calling on black men to renew their commitments to their families and communities. Farrakhan, due to health issues, reduced his responsibilities with the NOI in 2007.
In recent years, however, Farrakhan has been very active, including delivering weekly online sermons throughout 2013 as well as speaking at both large public NOI events as well as smaller venues. Since 2010, Farrakhan has advocated L Ron Hubbard's Dianetics and the use of its "auditing" technique despite not being a Scientologist. In 2015, he led the 20th Anniversary of the Million Man March: Justice or Else.
Farrakhan was born Louis Eugene Wolcott (also mistakenly spelled Walcott) in The Bronx, New York, the younger of two sons of Sarah Mae Manning (January 16, 1900 – November 18, 1988) and Percival Clark, immigrants from the Caribbean islands. His mother was born in Saint Kitts and Nevis. His father was a Jamaican native. The couple split before Louis was born. Farrakhan says he never knew his biological father. His mother then moved in with Louis Wolcott from Barbados, who became his stepfather. After Louis' stepfather died in 1936, the Wolcott family moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where they settled in the West Indian neighborhood of Roxbury.
Starting at the age of six, Wolcott received rigorous training in the violin. He received his first violin at the age of six, and by the time he was 13 years old he had played with the Boston College Orchestra and the Boston Civic Symphony. A year later, he went on to win national competitions. In 1946, he was one of the first black performers to appear on the Ted Mack Original Amateur Hour, where he also won an award. He and his family were active members of the Episcopal St. Cyprian's Church in Roxbury, Massachusetts.
Wolcott attended the prestigious Boston Latin School, and later the English High School, from which he graduated. He completed three years at Winston-Salem Teachers College, where he had a track scholarship.
Wolcott married Betsy Ross while he was in college. (She later took the name Khadijah Farrakhan.) She lived in Boston,[when?] and was pregnant with their child. Due to complications from the pregnancy, Wolcott dropped out after completing his junior year of college to devote time to her and their child. They are still married.
Farrakhan has nine children: four sons (Mustapha, Joshua Nasir, Abnar, and Louis Jr.) and five daughters (Donna, Hanan, Maria, Fatimah, and Khallada).
In the 1950s, Wolcott started his professional music career by recording several calypso albums as a singer under the name "The Charmer". He also performed on tour. In February 1955, using part of his middle name, Eugene, "Calypso Gene" was headlining a show in Chicago, Illinois, entitled "Calypso Follies." One of his songs was on the top 100 Billboard Chart for five years in a row. There he first came in contact with the teachings of the Nation of Islam (NOI) through Rodney Smith, a friend and saxophonist from Boston. Wolcott and his wife Betsy were invited to the Nation of Islam's annual Saviours' Day address by Elijah Muhammad. Prior to going to Saviours' Day, due to then-Minister Malcolm X's popularity in the media, Wolcott had never heard of Elijah Muhammad, and like many outside of the Nation of Islam, he thought that Malcolm X was the leader of the Nation of Islam.
In 1955, Wolcott fulfilled the requirements to be a registered Muslim/registered believer/registered laborer. He memorized and recited verbatim the 10 questions and answers of the NOI's Student Enrollment. He then wrote a Saviour's Letter that must be sent to the NOI's headquarters in Chicago. The Saviour's Letter must be copied verbatim, and have the identical handwriting of the Nation of Islam's founder, Wallace Fard Muhammad. After having the Saviour's Letter reviewed, and approved by the NOI's headquarters in Chicago in July 1955, Wolcott received a letter of approval from the Nation of Islam acknowledging his official membership as a registered Muslim/registered believer/registered laborer in the NOI. As a result, he received his "X." The "X" was considered a placeholder, used to indicate that Nation of Islam members' original African family names had been lost. They acknowledged that European surnames were slave names, assigned by the slaveowners to mark their ownership. Members of the NOI used the "X" while waiting for their Islamic names, which some NOI members received later in their conversion. Hence, Louis Wolcott became Louis X. Elijah Muhammad then replaced his "X" with the "holy name" Farrakhan, an Arabic name meaning "The Criterion".
The summer after Louis' conversion, Elijah Muhammad stated that all musicians in the NOI had to choose between music and the Nation of Islam. Louis X did so only after performing one final event at the Nevel Country Club.
Louis X quickly rose through the ranks. After only nine months of being a registered Muslim in the NOI and a member of Muhammad's Temple of Islam in Boston, where Malcolm X was the minister, the former calypso-singer turned Muslim became his assistant minister. Eventually he became the official minister after Elijah Muhammad transferred Malcolm X to Muhammad's Temple of Islam No. 7 on West 116th St. in Harlem, New York City. Louis X continued to be mentored by Malcolm X, until the latter's assassination in 1965. The day that Malcolm X died in Harlem, Farrakhan happened to be in Newark, New Jersey on rotation, 45 minutes away from where Malcolm X was assassinated. After Malcolm X's death, Elijah Muhammad appointed Farrakhan to the two prominent positions that Malcolm held before being dismissed from the NOI. Farrakhan became the national spokesman/national representative of the NOI and was appointed minister of the influential Harlem Mosque (Temple), where he served until 1975.
Considered by many to be a former (and by some, a present) competitor to Malcolm X, Farrakhan made numerous incendiary statements about him, contributing to what was called a "climate of vilification." This may have contributed to what ultimately led to the assassination of Malcolm X at a time when he was beginning to distance himself from the NOI after his hajj to Mecca. Three men from a Newark, New Jersey, NOI mosque - Thomas Hagan, Muhammad Abdul Aziz (aka Norman 3X Butler) and Kahlil Islam (aka Thomas 15X Johnson)—were convicted of the killing and served prison sentences. Only Hagan ever admitted his role. Farrakhan was the keynote speaker at the Newark temple the same day that Malcolm X was assassinated.
Warith Deen Mohammed, the seventh son of Elijah and Clara Muhammad, was declared the new leader of the Nation of Islam at the annual Saviour's Day Convention in February 1975, a day after his father died. He made substantial changes to the organization in the late 1970s, taking most members into a closer relationship with traditional (orthodox) Islam, and renaming the group "World Community of Islam in the West", and eventually the American Society of Muslims, to indicate the apparent change. He rejected the deification of the founder Wallace D. Fard as Allah in person, the Mahdi of the Holy Qur'an and the messiah of the Bible, welcomed white worshippers who were once considered devils and enemies in the NOI as equal brothers, sisters, and friends. At the beginning of these changes, Chief Min. Warith Deen Mohammed gave some Euro-Americans X's, and extended efforts at inter-religious cooperation and outreach to Christians and Jews. Changing his position and title from Chief Minister Wallace Muhammad to Imam Warith huddin Mohammad, and finally Imam Warith Al-Deen Mohammed, he was responsible for the most massive conversion of over 2,000,000 members of the Nation of Islam to traditional Islam in the United States of America.
Farrakhan joined and followed Imam Warith Al-Deen Mohammed, and eventually became a Sunni Imam under him for 3
1⁄2 years from 1975–1978. Imam Mohammed gave Imam Farrakhan the name Abdul-Haleem. In 1978, Imam Farrakhan distanced himself from Mohammed's movement. In a 1990 interview with Emerge magazine, Farrakhan said that he had become disillusioned and decided to "quietly walk away" rather than cause a schism among the members. In 1978, Farrakhan and a small number of supporters decided to rebuild what they considered the original Nation of Islam upon the foundations established by Wallace Fard Muhammad, and Elijah Muhammad. This was done without publicly stating the intent.
In 1979, Farrakhan's group founded a weekly newspaper entitled The Final Call, Inc. intended to be similar to the original Muhammad Speaks Newspaper that Malcolm X claims to have started, in which Farrakhan has a weekly column. In 1981, Farrakhan and his supporters held their first Saviours' Day convention in Chicago, Illinois, and took back the name of the Nation of Islam. The event was similar to the earlier Nation's celebrations, last held in Chicago on February 26, 1975. At the convention's keynote address, Farrakhan announced his attempt to restore the Nation of Islam under Elijah Muhammad's teachings.