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Noble Drew Ali and the Moorish Science Temple: A Study in Race, Gender, and African American Religion, 1913-1930

  • Author(s): Wilms, Stephanie Ann
  • Advisor(s): Franklin, V.P.
  • et al.
Abstract

"Noble Drew Ali and The Moorish Science Temple: A Study of Race, Gender, and African American Religion, 1913-1930" examines the historical roots of the 20th century proto-Islamic phenomenon, arguing that the group's seemingly quirky identity formation was not random and in fact is supported by a number of historical contingencies that when explored reveal Moorish Science as a sophisticated response to a violent racial caste system in American society. Through the use of a number of newly unearthed historical documents, photographs, newspapers, and scholarly secondary material, this dissertation presents a portrait of the development of Moorish Science that contends with previous analysis of the group as marginal and explains their theology as a hodge-podge of esoteric religious formations randomly thrown together. Instead, it shows the very deliberate conglomeration of seemingly disparate beliefs as something well intentioned and fashioned according to the cultural material available to Noble Drew Ali in early twentieth century America. It shows that there was a larger web of cultural connectivity available to Americans during this early period that allowed for a greater rate of syncretism, exchange, and fluidity than has previously been discussed. It takes into account the influence Marcus Mosiah Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) had on Moorish Science, the impact of freemasonry and photography in the success and spread of Moorish Science, and the role of women within the early Temple.

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