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A Flawed but Essential Work
on February 9, 2000
I have read the reviews of Evanzz' book on Amazon.com and BN.com and have been somewhat taken aback by the opposition to what he has done here. I read the book from cover to cover and have also read many of the major books and articles about the Nation of Islam or its members (especially Malcolm X). Based upon my own reading, Evanzz has turned in a work that is carefully considered and should be read with an open mind and heart by anyone who wants to learn more about Elijah Muhammad, the Nation of Islam, or Black politics in the 20th century.
Several reviewers here have objected to Evanzz' use of FBI files, but it should be clear from reading this book, Bruce Perry's _Malcolm_, and the FBI files of Martin Luther King, Jr., Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, and many others that while the FBI has repeatedly been the enemy of Black people in America, it has also inadvertently provided excellent documentation of Black leaders' activities, for better or worse. Evanzz recognizes this, and even points out how ham-fisted the FBI could be in its attempts to undermine Black organizations, including the NOI.
Is Evanzz' account totally unbiased? Obviously, no. The further one gets into the book, the clearer his disdain for the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the NOI shows through. Given the events he relates, however, it's easy to see why. That an organization that intends to save Black folks could be so cruel to those it would save should give any reader pause.
Evanzz forces us to confront a number of issues: 1) How and why religions are formed; 2) The relevance of the NOI; 3) The weaknesses built into the NOI and its theology; 4) The importance of having a clear-eyed view of ALL leaders.
Was/is Elijah Muhammad important to African American politics and history? Of course he was. Evanzz understands this. He also makes clear, however, that that importance should not excuse us from criticizing him or his spirtual or political heirs.
One final word: I recommend readers check out C. Eric Lincoln's _The Black Muslims in America_, Peter Goldman's _The Death and Life of Malcolm X_, Louis Lomax's _To Kill a Black Man_, and Bruce Perry's _Malcolm_ as sources that will alternately support and correct some of Evanzz' information. (Some minor facts are inaccurate in a few places.)