Louis Farrakhan, Sr. (born Louis Eugene Wolcott; May 11, 1933, and formerly known as Louis X) is the leader of the religious group Nation of Islam (NOI). He served as the minister of major mosques in Boston and Harlem, and was appointed by the longtime NOI leader, Elijah Muhammad, as the National Representative of the Nation of Islam. After Warith Deen Muhammad disbanded the NOI and started the orthodox Islamic group American Society of Muslims, Farrakhan started rebuilding the NOI. In 1981 he revived the name Nation of Islam for his organization, previously known as Final Call, regaining many of the Nation of Islam's National properties including the NOI National Headquarters Mosque Maryam, reopening over 130 NOI mosques in America and the world. The Southern Poverty Law Center describes Farrakhan asantisemitic and a proponent of an anti-white theology. Farrakhan himself, however, disputes this view of his ideology.
Farrakhan is a black religious and social leader. Farrakhan has been both praised and widely criticized for his often controversial political views and outspoken rhetorical style. He has been criticized for remarks that have been perceived as antisemitic, anti-white and prejudiced against gays. In October 1995, he organized and led theMillion Man March in Washington, D.C., calling on black men to renew their commitments to their families and communities. Farrakhan, due to health issues, reduced his responsibilities with the NOI in 2007.
In recent years, however, Farrakhan has been very active, including delivering weekly online sermons throughout 2013 as well as speaking at both large public NOI events as well as smaller venues. Since 2010, Farrakhan has advocated L Ron Hubbard's Dianetics and the use of its "auditing" technique despite not being aScientologist. In 2015, he led the 20th Anniversary of the Million Man March: Justice or Else.
Early life and education
|[hide]Part of a series on:|
Nation of Islam
Farrakhan was born Louis Eugene Wolcott (also mistakenly spelled Walcott) in The Bronx, New York, the younger of two sons of Sarah Mae Manning (January 16, 1900 – November 18, 1988) and Percival Clark, immigrants from the Caribbean islands. His mother was born in Saint Kitts and Nevis. His father was a Jamaican native. The couple split before Louis was born. Farrakhan says he never knew his biological father. His mother then moved in with Louis Wolcott from Barbados, who became his stepfather. After Louis' stepfather died in 1936, the Wolcott family moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where they settled in the West Indian neighborhood of Roxbury.
Starting at the age of six, Wolcott received rigorous training in the violin. He received his first violin at the age of six, and by the time he was 13 years old he had played with the Boston College Orchestra and the Boston Civic Symphony. A year later, he went on to win national competitions. In 1946, he was one of the first black performers to appear on the Ted Mack Original Amateur Hour, where he also won an award. He and his family were active members of the Episcopal St. Cyprian's Church in Roxbury, Massachusetts.
Wolcott attended the prestigious Boston Latin School, and later the English High School, from which he graduated. He completed three years at Winston-Salem Teachers College, where he had a track scholarship.
Marriage and family
Wolcott married Betsy Ross while he was in college. (She later took the name Khadijah Farrakhan.) She lived in Boston,[when?] and was pregnant with their child. Due to complications from the pregnancy, Wolcott dropped out after completing his junior year of college to devote time to her and their child. They are still married.
Farrakhan has nine children: four sons (Mustapha, Joshua Nasir, Abnar, and Louis Jr.) and five daughters (Donna, Hanan, Maria, Fatimah, and Khallada).
In the 1950s, Wolcott started his professional music career by recording several calypso albums as a singer under the name "The Charmer". He also performed on tour. In February 1955, using part of his middle name, Eugene, "Calypso Gene" was headlining a show in Chicago, Illinois, entitled "Calypso Follies." One of his songs was on the top 100 Billboard Chart for five years in a row. There he first came in contact with the teachings of the Nation of Islam (NOI) through Rodney Smith, a friend and saxophonist from Boston. Wolcott and his wife Betsy were invited to the Nation of Islam's annual Saviours' Day address by Elijah Muhammad. Prior to going to Saviours' Day, due to then-Minister Malcolm X's popularity in the media, Wolcott had never heard of Elijah Muhammad, and like many outside of the Nation of Islam, he thought that Malcolm X was the leader of the Nation of Islam.
In 1955, Wolcott fulfilled the requirements to be a registered Muslim/registered believer/registered laborer. He memorized and recited verbatim the 10 questions and answers of the NOI's Student Enrollment. He then wrote a Saviour's Letter that must be sent to the NOI's headquarters in Chicago. The Saviour's Letter must be copiedverbatim, and have the identical handwriting of the Nation of Islam's founder, Wallace Fard Muhammad. After having the Saviour's Letter reviewed, and approved by the NOI's headquarters in Chicago in July 1955, Wolcott received a letter of approval from the Nation of Islam acknowledging his official membership as a registered Muslim/registered believer/registered laborer in the NOI. As a result, he received his "X." The "X" was considered a placeholder, used to indicate that Nation of Islam members' original African family names had been lost. They acknowledged that European surnames were slave names, assigned by the slaveowners to mark their ownership. Members of the NOI used the "X" while waiting for their Islamic names, which some NOI members received later in their conversion. Hence, Louis Wolcott became Louis X. Elijah Muhammad then replaced his "X" with the "holy name" Farrakhan, an Arabic name meaning "The Criterion".
The summer after Louis' conversion, Elijah Muhammad stated that all musicians in the NOI had to choose between music and the Nation of Islam. Louis X did so only after performing one final event at the Nevel Country Club.
Louis X quickly rose through the ranks. After only nine months of being a registered Muslim in the NOI and a member of Muhammad's Temple of Islam in Boston, where Malcolm X was the minister, the former calypso-singer turned Muslim became his assistant minister. Eventually he became the official minister after Elijah Muhammad transferred Malcolm X to Muhammad's Temple of Islam No. 7 on West 116th St. inHarlem, New York City. Louis X continued to be mentored by Malcolm X, until the latter's assassination in 1965. The day that Malcolm X died in Harlem, Farrakhan happened to be in Newark, New Jersey on rotation, 45 minutes away from where Malcolm X was assassinated. After Malcolm X's death, Elijah Muhammad appointed Farrakhan to the two prominent positions that Malcolm held before being dismissed from the NOI. Farrakhan became the national spokesman/national representative of the NOI and was appointed minister of the influential Harlem Mosque (Temple), where he served until 1975.
Considered by many to be a former (and by some, a present) competitor to Malcolm X, Farrakhan made numerous incendiary statements about him, contributing to what was called a "climate of vilification." This may have contributed to what ultimately led to the assassination of Malcolm X at a time when he was beginning to distance himself from the NOI after his hajj to Mecca. Three men from a Newark, New Jersey, NOI mosque - Thomas Hagan, Muhammad Abdul Aziz (aka Norman 3X Butler) and Kahlil Islam (aka Thomas 15X Johnson)—were convicted of the killing and served prison sentences. Only Hagan ever admitted his role. Farrakhan was the keynote speaker at the Newark temple the same day that Malcolm X was assassinated.
Warith Deen Mohammed, the seventh son of Elijah and Clara Muhammad, was declared the new leader of the Nation of Islam at the annual Saviour's Day Convention in February 1975, a day after his father died. He made substantial changes to the organization in the late 1970s, taking most members into a closer relationship with traditional (orthodox) Islam, and renaming the group "World Community of Islam in the West", and eventually the American Society of Muslims, to indicate the apparent change. He rejected the deification of the founder Wallace D. Fard as Allah in person, the Mahdi of the Holy Qur'an and the messiah of theBible, welcomed white worshippers who were once considered devils and enemies in the NOI as equal brothers, sisters, and friends. At the beginning of these changes, Chief Min. Warith Deen Mohammed gave some Euro-Americans X's, and extended efforts at inter-religious cooperation and outreach to Christians and Jews. Changing his position and title from Chief Minister Wallace Muhammad to Imam Warith huddin Mohammad, and finally Imam Warith Al-Deen Mohammed, he was responsible for the most massive conversion of over 2,000,000 members of the Nation of Islam to traditional Islam in the United States of America.
Farrakhan joined and followed Imam Warith Al-Deen Mohammed, and eventually became a Sunni Imam under him for 3 years from 1975–1978. Imam Mohammed gave Imam Farrakhan the name Abdul-Haleem. In 1978, Imam Farrakhan distanced himself from Mohammed's movement. In a 1990 interview with 1⁄2Emerge magazine, Farrakhan said that he had become disillusioned and decided to "quietly walk away" rather than cause a schism among the members. In 1978, Farrakhan and a small number of supporters decided to rebuild what they considered the original Nation of Islam upon the foundations established byWallace Fard Muhammad, and Elijah Muhammad. This was done without publicly stating the intent.
In 1979, Farrakhan's group founded a weekly newspaper entitled The Final Call, Inc. intended to be similar to the original Muhammad Speaks Newspaper that Malcolm X claims to have started, in which Farrakhan has a weekly column. In 1981, Farrakhan and his supporters held their first Saviours' Day convention in Chicago, Illinois, and took back the name of the Nation of Islam. The event was similar to the earlier Nation's celebrations, last held in Chicago on February 26, 1975. At the convention's keynote address, Farrakhan announced his attempt to restore the Nation of Islam under Elijah Muhammad's teachings.
On October 24, 1989, at a press conference at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Washington, DC, Minister Farrakhan described a vision which he had on September 17, 1985 in Tepoztlán, Mexico. In this 'Vision-like' experience he was carried up to "a Wheel, or what you call an unidentified flying object", as in the Bible's Book of Ezekiel. During this experience, he heard the voice of Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam. He said in the press conference that Elijah Muhammad "spoke in short cryptic sentences and as he spoke a scroll full of cursive writing rolled down in front of my eyes, but it was a projection of what was being written in my mind. As I attempted to read the cursive writing, which was in English, the scroll disappeared and the Honorable Elijah Muhammad began to speak to me." [Elijah Muhammad said], "President Reagan has met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to plan a war. I want you to hold a press conference in Washington, D.C., and announce their plan and say to the world that you got the information from me, Elijah Muhammad, on the Wheel."
During that same press conference Farrakhan stated that he believed his "experience" was proven stating, "In 1987, in the New York Times' Sunday magazine and on the front page of the Atlanta Constitution, the truth of my vision was verified, for the headlines of the Atlanta Constitution read, "President Reagan Planned War Against Libya." He continued, "In the article which followed, the exact words that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad spoke to me on the Wheel were found; that the President had met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and planned a war against Libya in the early part of September 1985."
On January 12, 1995, Malcolm X's daughter Qubilah Shabazz was arrested for conspiracy to assassinate Farrakhan. According to Stanford University historian Clayborne Carson, "[her family] resented Farrakhan and had good reason to because he was one of those in the Nation responsible for the climate of vilification that resulted in Malcolm X's assassination". Some critics later alleged that the FBI had used paid informant Michael Fitzpatrick to frame Shabazz, who was four years old when her father was killed. Nearly four months later, on the first of May, federal prosecutors dropped their case against Shabazz.
That year in October, Farrakhan convened a broad coalition of what he and his supporters claim to have been one-million men in Washington, D.C., for the Million Man March. The count however fell far below the hoped-for numbers. The National Park Service estimated that approximately 440,000 were in attendance. Farrakhan threatened to sue the National Park Service because of the low estimate from the Park Police. Farrakhan and other speakers called for black men to renew their commitments to their families and communities. The event was organized by a wide variety of civil rights and religious organizations and drew men and their sons from across the United States of America. While Farrakhan was the keynote speaker, many distinguished African American intellectuals addressed the throng including: Maya Angelou; Rosa Parks; Martin Luther King III, Cornel West, Jesse Jackson and Benjamin Chavis. In 2005, together with other prominent African Americans such as the New Black Panther Party leader Malik Zulu Shabazz, the activistAl Sharpton, Addis Daniel and others, Farrakhan marked the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March by holding a second gathering, the Millions More Movement, October 14–17 in Washington D.C.
- 2005, a Black Entertainment Television (BET) poll voted Farrakhan the 'Person of the Year'.
- 2006, an AP-AOL "Black Voices" poll voted Farrakhan the fifth-most important black leader, with 4 percent of the vote.
In comments in 2005, Farrakhan stated that there was a 25-foot (7.6 m) hole under one of the key levees that failed in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. He implied that the levee's destruction was a deliberate attempt to wipe out the population of the largely black sections within the city. Farrakhan later said that New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin told him of the crater during a meeting in Dallas, Texas. Farrakhan further claimed that the fact the levee broke the day after Hurricane Katrina is proof that the destruction of the levee was not a natural occurrence. Farrakhan has raised additional questions and has called for federal investigations into the source of the levee break. He also asserted that the hurricane was "God's way of punishing America for its warmongering and racism".
Experts including the Independent Levee Investigation Team (ILIT) from the University of California, Berkeley have countered his accusations. The report from the ILIT said "The findings of this panel are that the overtopping of the levees by flood waters, the often sub-standard materials used to shore up the levees, and the age of the levees contributed to these scour holes found at many of the sites of levee breaks after the hurricane."
Former support for Barack Obama
In 2008, Farrakhan publicly supported then-Senator Barack Obama who was campaigning at the time to become the president of the United States of America, at the same time criticizing the United States.
The Obama campaign quickly responded to convey his distance from the minister. "Senator Obama has been clear in his objections to Farrakhan's past pronouncements and has not solicited the minister's support," said Obama spokesman Bill Burton. Obama "rejected and denounced" Farrakhan's support during an NBC presidential candidate debate.
Conservative internet sites such as World Net Daily reported that during his February 24, 2008, "Saviours' Day" speech Farrakhan had called Obama "the Messiah". What Farrakhan actually said is "Sen. Obama is not the Messiah for sure, but anytime, he gives you a sign of uniting races, ethnic groups, ideologies, religions and makes people feel a sense of oneness, that's not necessarily Satan’s work, that is I believe the work of God."
Following the 2008 presidential election, Farrakhan explained, during a BET television interview, that he was "careful" never to endorse Obama during his campaign. "I talked about him—but, in very beautiful and glowing terms, stopping short of endorsing him. And unfortunately, or fortunately, however we look at it, the media said I 'endorsed' him, so he renounced my so-called endorsement and support. But that didn’t stop me from supporting him."
As of 2012, Farrakhan no longer supports Obama, whom he has since called the "first Jewish president", due to Obama's support for the 2011 military intervention in Libya, which Farrakhan strongly opposed due to his own support for Muammar Gaddafi. At a March 31, 2011 press conference held at the Mosque Maryam, Farrakhan warned that the United States could be "facing a major earthquake as part of God’s divine judgment against the country for her evil".
On May 8, 2010, Farrakhan publicly announced his embrace of Dianetics and has actively encouraged Nation of Islam members to undergo auditing from the Church of Scientology. Although he has stressed that he is not a Scientologist, but only a believer in Dianetics and the theories related to it, the Church honored Farrakhan previously during its 2006 Ebony Awakening awards ceremony (which he did not attend).
Since the announcement in 2010, the Nation of Islam has been hosting its own dianetics courses and its own graduation ceremonies. At the third such ceremony, which was held on Saviours Day 2013, it was announced that nearly 8500 members of the organisation had undergone dianetics auditing. The Organisation announced it had graduated 1055 auditors and had delivered 82,424 hours of auditing. The graduation ceremony was certified by the Church of Scientology, and the Nation of Islam members received official certification. The ceremony was attended by Shane Woodruff, vice-president of the Church of Scientology’s Celebrity Centre International. He stated that "The unfolding story of the Nation of Islam and Dianetics is bold, It is determined and it is absolutely committed to restoring freedom and wiping hell from the face of this planet.” 
Farrakhan announced that he was seriously ill in a September 11, 2006, letter to his staff, Nation of Islam members and supporters. The letter, published in The Final Call newspaper, said that doctors in Cuba had discovered a peptic ulcer. According to the letter subsequent infections caused Farrakhan to lose 35 pounds, and he urged the Nation of Islam leadership to carry on while he recovered.
Farrakhan was released from his five-week hospital stay on January 28, 2007, after major abdominal surgery. The operation was performed to correct damage caused by side effects of a radioactive "seed" implantation procedure that he received years earlier to successfully treat prostate cancer.
Following his hospital stay, Farrakhan released a "Message of Appreciation" to supporters and well-wishers and weeks later delivered the keynote address at the Nation of Islam's annual convention in Detroit.
In December 2013, Farrakhan announced that he had not appeared publicly for two months because he had suffered a heart attack in October.
Criticism and controversy
Farrakhan has been the center of much controversy with critics saying that his views and comments are antisemitic or racist. Farrakhan has categorically denied these charges and stated that much of America's perception of him has been shaped by media.
Malcolm X's death
Many, including Malcolm X's family, have accused Louis Farrakhan of being involved in the plot to assassinate Malcolm X. For many years, Betty Shabazz, the wife of Malcolm X, harbored resentment toward the Nation of Islam—and Farrakhan in particular—for what she felt was their role in the assassination of her husband. In a 1993 speech, Farrakhan seemed to acknowledge the possibility that the Nation of Islam was responsible for the assassination:
During a 1994 interview, Gabe Pressman asked Shabazz whether Farrakhan "had anything to do" with Malcolm X's death. She replied: "Of course, yes. Nobody kept it a secret. It was a badge of honor. Everybody talked about it, yes." In January 1995, Qubilah Shabazz, the daughter of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz, was charged with trying to hire an assassin to kill Farrakhan in retaliation for the murder of her father, whom she long believed was responsible for it. On May 1, 1995, prosecutors agreed to drop murder-for-hire charges against Shabazz in a deal that required her to take responsibility for her actions and undergo drug and psychiatric treatment for two years to avoid a prison sentence.
In a 60 Minutes interview that aired during May 2000, Farrakhan stated that some of the things he said may have led to the assassination of Malcolm X. "I may have been complicit in words that I spoke", he said. "I acknowledge that and regret that any word that I have said caused the loss of life of a human being." A few days later Farrakhan denied that he "ordered the assassination" of Malcolm X, although he again acknowledged that he "created the atmosphere that ultimately led to Malcolm X's assassination."
Allegations of antisemitism
Many of Farrakhan's comments have been deemed antisemitic by the Anti-Defamation League. In 2012, the Simon Wiesenthal Center included some of Farrakhan's comments on its list of the Top 10 antisemitic slurs of that year. At a meeting of the Nation of Islam at Madison Square Garden in 1985, Farrakhan said of the Jews: "And don't you forget, when it's God who puts you in the ovens, it's forever!"Farrakhan made antisemitic comments during his May 16–17, 2013 visit to Detroit and in his weekly sermons titled "The Time and What Must Be Done", begun during January 2013. In March 2015, Farrakhan accused Jews of involvement in the September 11 attacks.
Farrakhan has alleged that Jewish distributors blocked a major urban economic renewal initiative in 1984 he had championed which was dubbed "P.O.W.E.R." for People Organized Working for Economic Rebirth. The initiative called for a joint enterprise of businesses and organizations, owned or run by Black people, to produce and distribute a line of cosmetics and toiletries sold under the Clean & Fresh (now defunct) label. Major haircare companies, including Johnson Products Company, backed out of the initiative fearing it could lead to accusations of anti-Semitism. Johnson Products owner George E. Johnson, Sr. maintained that his company's distributors told him that any dealings with Farrakhan's P.O.W.E.R. project would lead to having his own products boycotted. "We knew we could not offend our distribution channels," a Johnson spokesman Dorothy McConner said. "When I saw that," Farrakhan said, "I recognized that the Blackman will never be free until we address the relationship between Blacks and Jews."
"Gutter religion" accusations
In 1984, after returning from a visit to Libya Farrakhan delivered a sermon that was recorded by a Chicago Sun Times reporter. A transcript from part of the sermon was published in The New York Times:
Farrakhan has repeatedly denied referring to Judaism as a "gutter religion" explaining that he was instead referring to what he believed was the Israeli Government's use of Judaism as a political tool. In a June 18, 1997, letter to a former Wall Street Journal editor Jude Wanniski he stated:
"Black Hitler" characterization
In response to Farrakhan's speech, Nathan Pearlmutter, then Chair of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) of B'nai B'rith, referred to Farrakhan as the new "Black Hitler" and Village Voice journalist Nat Hentoff also characterized the NOI leader as a "Black Hitler" while a guest on a New York radio talk-show.
In response, Farrakhan announced during a March 11, 1984, speech broadcast on a Chicago radio station:
Allegations of sexism
Farrakhan received sexual discrimination complaints filed with a New York state agency when he banned women from attending a speech he gave in a city-owned theater in 1993. The next year he gave a speech only women could attend. In his speech for women, as The New York Times reported, "Mr. Farrakhan urged the women to embrace his formula for a successful family. He encouraged them to put husbands and children ahead of their careers, shun tight, short skirts, stay off welfare and reject abortion. He also stressed the importance of cooking and cleaning and urged women not to abandon homemaking for careers. 'You’re just not going to be happy unless there is happiness in the home,' Mr. Farrakhan said at the Mason Cathedral Church of God in Christ in the Dorchester section, not far from the Roxbury neighborhood where he was reared by a single mother. 'Your professional lives can’t satisfy your soul like a good, loving man.'" 
Farrakhan and classical music
When Farrakhan first joined the NOI he was asked by Elijah Muhammad to put aside his musical career as a calypso singer. After 42 years, Farrakhan decided to take up the violin once more primarily due to the urging of prominent classical musician Sylvia Olden Lee.
On April 17, 1993, Farrakhan made his return concert debut with performances of the Violin Concerto in E Minor by Felix Mendelssohn. Farrakhan intimated that his performance of a concerto by a Jewish composer was, in part, an effort to heal a rift between him and the Jewish community. The New York Times music critic Bernard Holland reported that Farrakhan's performance was somewhat flawed due to years of neglect "nonetheless Mr. Farrakhan's sound is that of the authentic player. It is wide, deep and full of the energy that makes the violin gleam."