The nation of Islam's struggle for civil rights and liberties, 1930-1971
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] Beginning in the fall of 1939, Charles Hamilton Houston, professor of law at the Howard University School of Law and the legal pioneer generally credited with mentoring Thurgood Marshall and laying the groundwork that culminated in the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education, requested and received permission to restructure the law school's course on civil rights to focus on religious freedom and free speech. Whereas access to professionally responsible and competent legal representation had eluded the Nation of Islam (NOI) prior to this development, the emergence and retention of competently trained lawyers such as Edward W. Jacko, Jr., a former student in Houston's revamped civil rights course, dramatically expanded the civil rights of NOI members in a series of court cases that exposed the precarious and quite conflicting landscape of freedom for African Americans at the height of America's Civil Rights Movement. This study identifies the strategic initiatives launched by the Nation of Islam to defend and advance the civil rights of its members from 1930 to 1971. Moreover, the study locates the critical period during which the Nation of Islam's struggle for civil rights emerged. I contend that the Nation of Islam's efforts to defend the rights and freedoms of its members became a self-conscious and self-determined struggle for civil rights upon its acquisition of competent and professionally responsible legal counsel, such as Edward W. Jacko Jr., and its development of Muhammad Speaks from 1957 to 1965. Anything prior to the emergence of Jacko, who became the NOI's chief legal counsel, and the establishment of Muhammad Speaks were proto determinist encounters and marked by an avoidance of coalition building with African American civil rights organizations, an avoidance or uncritical assessment of legal counsel, and individual retreats to martyrdom as personal demonstrations of religious faith.
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