This post was written by a student in Susan Schuyler’s Narrative, Rhetoric, and Identity class at Stanford University. Each student in this class will complete a research-based argument related to the course topic.
The 1950s and 1960s was a period of great social change in the United States. The civil rights movement was gaining support under the leadership of figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr., and mistrust of government was growing rapidly. The African-American community in particular was struggling for an equal position in society and this desire led to a transformation in the collective identity of this group of people.
During this period, another group independent of the mainstream civil rights movement began to reach prominence in the United States. The Nation of Islam, led at the time by Elijah Muhammad, combined elements of Islamic belief with a much stronger component of Black Nationalism and separatism. Through their belief that the white race was inferior, the Nation changed the way in which members of the Black community viewed themselves as they strove for social equality at a time when black empowerment was at its height.
How effective was the Nation of Islam in making people believe that they needed to make a change in the way they viewed themselves and their community in the American context? My main methods of research will be sociological studies of the African American community, the history and analysis of the Nation of Islam, along with the over-arching study of the time period. Through my own research, I intend to examine the African American identity both before this period and directly after, focusing on the effect that the Nation of Islam had on the transformation of the African American identity.
–Grant Beard, Stanford 2014