U.S. Intellectual History Blog

Ula Taylor’s lecture on the Nation of Islam

Ula Taylor

For the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day at Luther College, we had the privilege of welcoming Ula Taylor. She is an associate professor at UC Berkeley and author of The Veiled Garvey: The Life and Times of Amy Jacques Garvey, about Marcus Garvey’s second wife, who sustained the movement after his exile from the US and after his death. She developed the idea of “community feminism.” She defines community feminists as

“women who may or may not live in male-centered households; either way, their activism is focused on assisting both the men and women in their lives—whether husbands or sisters, fathers or mothers, sons or daughters—along with initiating and participating in activities to uplift their communities.

Despite this helpmate focus, community feminists are undeniably feminists; their activism discerns the configuration of oppressive power relations, shatters masculinist claims of women as intellectually inferior,and seeks to empower women by expanding their roles and options.”

She is now working on a book about women in the Nation of Islam. Her talk last night asked the perplexing question–why would anyone join the Nation of Islam after Malcolm X’s death? The unspoken recesses of that question are–the Nation of Islam was responsible for the death of beloved leader Malcolm X, so why would someone join the organization?  She did an excellent job of aiming the talk at the diverse cross-section of folks who attended last night, so background material had to supplant much of her new conclusions. However, there were a couple that were intriguing.

She argued that many activists had become disillusioned with black power, particularly when national leaders began charging exorbitant rates for appearances, while Nation of Islam leaders would speak for free. She also argued that black consciousness and self-love did not fill bellies, while the economic programs of the Nation of Islam, which included restaurants, apartments, and farms, did. Finally, she argued that Elijah Mohammed’s leadership drew people in.

added this photo at 10:41 CST

The Africana Studies department of Luther College hosted its annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day lecturer Monday night. Despite below-zero wind chills, a sizeable crowd turned out to hear Professor Ula Y. Taylor speak about “Black Power Within the Nation of Islam.” Pictured, from left: Novian Whitsitt, chair of Africana Studies; Lauren Anderson, visiting assistant professor of Africana Studies and history; Ula Y. Taylor, Ph.D.; Alison Mandaville, visiting assistant professor in English. (Photo by Julie Berg-Raymond) For complete story see Thursday’s Decorah Journal.

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