The Promise of Patriarchy

Women and the Nation of Islam

By Ula Yvette Taylor

288 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 14 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-3393-0
    Published: October 2017
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-3392-3
    Published: October 2017
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-3394-7
    Published: September 2017

John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture

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The patriarchal structure of the Nation of Islam (NOI) promised black women the prospect of finding a provider and a protector among the organization’s men, who were fiercely committed to these masculine roles. Black women’s experience in the NOI, however, has largely remained on the periphery of scholarship. Here, Ula Taylor documents their struggle to escape the devaluation of black womanhood while also clinging to the empowering promises of patriarchy. Taylor shows how, despite being relegated to a lifestyle that did not encourage working outside of the home, NOI women found freedom in being able to bypass the degrading experiences connected to labor performed largely by working-class black women and in raising and educating their children in racially affirming environments.

Telling the stories of women like Clara Poole (wife of Elijah Muhammad) and Burnsteen Sharrieff (secretary to W. D. Fard, founder of the Allah Temple of Islam), Taylor offers a compelling narrative that explains how their decision to join a homegrown, male-controlled Islamic movement was a complicated act of self-preservation and self-love in Jim Crow America.

About the Author

Ula Yvette Taylor is professor of African American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.
For more information about Ula Yvette Taylor, visit the Author Page.

Reviews

“Until now, histories of the NOI have not given women their due, and none have had this kind of archival breadth and reach. This is superb scholarship.”—Gerald Horne, author of Fire This Time

“While much has been written about the Nation of Islam, male-centered narratives of the most controversial and high-profile leaders have predominated. And yet, as Taylor demonstrates, without the work and foresight of women, the NOI would have been a far-less-effective organization. This study moves the women of the NOI from the periphery to the center to unveil layers of insight into the politics of black intimacy. It combines compelling storytelling of individual biographies and deft analysis of the larger cultural and political forces impacting the lives of ordinary black people using a rich treasure trove of archival records and interviews. This is a stellar contribution to gender studies, African American studies, and late twentieth-century U.S. history.”--Tera W. Hunter, Princeton University