Review by Choice Review
Curtis's Islam in America and Dannin's Black Pilgrimage to Islam represent the upsurge of intense scholarly interest in the growth of Islam among African Americans. Curtis's study is derived from his doctoral dissertation, which presents a fine reinterpretation of the views of Edward Blyden, Noble Drew Ali, Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, Warith Deen Muhammad, and Louis Farrakhan on the relationship between race (black nationalism) and religion (Islamic tradition) from the point of view of postmodern criticism. Using the paradigm of "universalism" and "particularism," Curtis (religious studies, Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) explores the various ways in which each of these men gave priority either to the particularism of black nationalism or the universalism of the Islamic tradition. Although he does not introduce any new historical material relating to these figures, Curtis delineates their positions on religion and race, especially with regard to social change.Dannin (anthropology, New York Univ.), who includes more original material in his study, has broken new historical ground in uncovering the existence of several early African American Sunni Muslim communities in Cleveland and Buffalo. Using the ethnographic approach, he focuses largely on African Americans who have converted to Sunni Islam from the 1930s onward without going through the phase of black nationalism under Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam. The chapters on Wali Akram and the First Cleveland Mosque and Muhammad Ezaldeen and the Muslim community in Buffalo and West Valley (Jabul Arabia) are the most valuable for a critical history of Sunni Islam among African Americans. The only flaw in this excellent study concerns Dannin's theory of "The Trail of the Red Fez," which is more mythological than historical. He doesn't provide sufficient evidence that Masonic lodges were centers of the "unchurched" in black communities. Dannin's wife and collaborator, Jolie Stall, has contributed outstanding photographs that add to the value of the historical materials.A more complete overview of the history of Islam among African Americans would incorporate the subject matter of both these books since, individually, one tends to ignore what the other covers. Both books are highly recommended for advanced undergraduates, graduate students, researchers, and faculty. L. H. Mamiya Vassar College
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
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