Cultural Literacy: Black Muslims/Nation of Islam

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on Black Muslims. The minute I saw the text that serves as the basis for this reading comprehension worksheet, let alone wrote the document, I was uneasy. In fact, I was and remain so uneasy about this worksheet that I rewrote it as a worksheet on the Nation of Islam.

Why was I uneasy? Well, first of all, thanks for asking! For starters, I think “Black Muslims” is an appellation contrived and articulated by White Americans in the 1960s to describe something they didn’t understand, and something, perhaps, that made them anxious. One thing I always tried to teach kids in my classes is that they possess a fundamental right, prerogative, indeed responsibility, to identify themselves–and not leave that important job to someone else. And I don’t know about you, but to my ear, the term “Black Muslims” coming out of the mouths of people who don’t identify as members of the Nation of Islam carries a note of derogation.

But it was an article of popular culture that supplied confirmation of my position on this worksheet–namely Regina King’s superlative new film  One Night in MiamiHave you seen it? It’s based on an actual night–February 25, 1964–when Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke met in a Miami hotel room. Based on the stage play by Kemp Powers, it is a powerful film of exceptionally strong dialogue (kudos to Mr. Powers for the strength of his exposition, which is among the best I have ever heard), stellar performances, and deft direction.

In any case, at one point in the film, as Malcolm X and Sam Cooke engage in a heated argument, Sam Cooke makes a sneering remark about “Black Muslims.” Malcolm X quickly retorts, “The Nation of Islam to you.”

And that, in the final analysis, is why this post contains two documents as well as a healthy dose of skepticism about the phrase “Black Muslims.”

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

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