Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

John C. McMillian

Second Advisor

Jacqueline A. Rouse

Third Advisor

Mary G. Rolinson

Fourth Advisor

Akinyele O. Umoja


Elijah Muhammad led the Nation of Islam (NOI) from 1934-1974 and propelled it as an organization to help black people in America fight economic oppression. Muhammad urged black Americans to accept Islam and create a “heaven on earth” by developing and executing an economic program in which several business enterprises opened in major cities. Muhammad encouraged members to adhere to a strict moral code that included working hard and saving money. Some NOI members worked within the movement’s enterprises and others opened their own businesses. This manuscript surveys the Nation of Islam’s economic program in Atlanta, Chicago, and New York under Muhammad’s leadership. This work also extracts and contextualizes over twenty testimonials from the pioneers or NOI members who participated in the economic program between 1930-1975 primarily from interviews conducted by the author as well as accounts found in the NOI’s newspaper, Muhammad Speaks. Findings reveal that the NOI’s economic program helped some pioneers develop an identity, improved their work ethic, provided a way out of economic oppression, and made them economically self-sufficient.

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Available for download on Thursday, April 21, 2022