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Marcus Garvey: Look For Me in the Whirlwind

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Online Forum: Marcus Garvey and Noble Drew Ali
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What was the relationship between Noble Drew Ali and Marcus Garvey?

Answered by Barbara Bair:
Noble Drew Ali (who was born Timothy Drew, in North Carolina) (1886-1929) was the founder of the Moorish Science Temple of America. He first founded the Temple in Newark, N.J., in 1923 and soon there were branches in Pittsburgh, Detroit, and other major industrial cities of the northeast, especially in neighborhoods that had attracted mass black migration from the South.

Ali moved to Chicago in 1925 and it was there that his movement took on its greatest force. Noble Drew Ali very much saw Marcus Garvey as an inspiration for his own efforts. He spoke of Garvey as a voice in the wilderness on the issue of racial pride, an orator and prophet who had prepared black people to be receptive to Ali's own message. Like Garvey, Ali preached the importance of developing unity among all peoples of the African diaspora. Marcus Garvey was specifically lauded as a John the Baptist who prepared the way for the coming of Noble Drew Ali at Moorish Science Temple meetings.

Unlike the Garvey movement, which was predominantly Christian, and which adopted many of the rituals of Christian worship in its meetings, Noble Drew Ali stressed his belief that all blacks, Asiatics, Turks, Arabs, and Latin Americans--i.e. what we would today describe as people of color--were in origin Moorish, or Moslem. Ali used many of the same tactics to attract and hold followers as Marcus Garvey did with the UNIA.

The Moorish Science Temple had street orators, members had badges and membership cards and certificates, and the organization was structured with several branches in different cities, just like the UNIA. While Ali lauded Garvey, and used Garvey's name to attract Garveyites into his own movement, Garvey on his side was skeptical about Ali and his motives.

In 1927 Garvey claimed to know nothing about Ali or his organizing efforts using his name. The connection, though, was an important one. Noble Drew Ali and others who urged black people to feel black pride and endorse clean living and the Muslim faith, and who pointed to the earlier teachings of Garvey, were in turn links to other important leaders and developments within the Nation of Islam. Importantly, Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam, praised both Ali and Garvey as forerunners for his own movement, and the legacy of Garveyism and Islam is continued in the work of Louis Farrakhan and others.

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