The Nuwaubian Nation or Nuwaubian movement was a religious organization founded and led by Dwight York. York began founding Black Muslim groups in New York in 1967. He changed his teachings and the names of his groups many times, incorporating concepts from Judaism, Christianity, and many esoteric beliefs.
In the late 1980s, he abandoned the Muslim theology of his movement in favor of Kemetism and UFO religion. In 1991 he took his community to settle in upstate New York; then they moved near the county seat of Eatonton, Georgia, in Putnam County. His followers built an ancient Egypt-themed compound called Tama-Re and changed their name to the "United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors."
By 2000, the "United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors" had some 500 adherents. They drew thousands of visitors for "Savior's Day" (York's birthday). Adherence declined steeply after York was convicted of numerous counts of child molestation and financing violations, and sentenced to 135 years in federal prison in April 2004. The Tama-Re compound was sold under government forfeiture and demolished in 2005. The Southern Poverty Law Center described York as a "black supremacist cult leader".
The group has taken numerous names, including Ansaru Allah Community, Holy Tabernacle Ministries, United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors (after the move to Georgia), Yamassee Native American Moors of the Creek Nation (also used in Georgia when York claimed indigenous ancestry via Egyptian migration and intermarriage with the ancient Olmec) and Nuwaubian Nation of Moors.
The Nuwaubian Nation was centered exclusively on the person of the founder, Malachi (Dwight) York, who legally changed his name several times, and has used dozens of aliases.
York was born on June 26, 1935 (also reported as 1945). He began what he called his in the late 1960s, from 1967 preaching to a group he called the Pan-African "Nubians" (viz. African Americans) in Brooklyn.
York founded numerous esoteric or quasi-religious fraternal orders under various names during the 1970s and 1980s, at first along pseudo-Islamic lines, later moving to a loose Afrocentric ancient Egypt theme, eclectically mixing ideas taken from Black nationalism, cryptozoology and UFO religions and popular conspiracy theories. During the 1980s, he was also active as a musician, as "Dr. York" publishing under the "Passion Records" label.
York published some 450 booklets (dubbed "scrolls") under numerous pseudonyms. During the late 1990s, he styled himself a messianic founder-prophet of his movement, sometimes claiming divine status or extraterrestrial origin, appearing on his Savior's Day celebrations at Tama-Re.
York was arrested in May 2002, and in 2003 he pleaded guilty to child sexual abuse after being indicted on 197 counts of child molestation, including charges of sex trafficking of minors across state lines. He was imprisoned. In 2004, he was convicted to a 135-year sentence for transporting minors across state lines in the course of sexually molesting them, racketeering, and financial reporting charges. His convictions were upheld on appeal. York's case was reported as the largest prosecution for child molestation ever directed at a single person in the history of the United States, both in terms of number of victims and number of incidents. The case was described in the book Ungodly: A True Story of Unprecedented Evil (2007) by Bill Osinski, a reporter who had covered the Nuwaubians in Georgia during the late 1990s.
Some factions of the Black supremacist subculture in the United States appeared to continue to support York as of 2010, portraying his conviction as a conspiracy by the "White Power Structure". Malik Zulu Shabazz, chairman of the New Black Panther Party and York's lawyer, described York as "a great leader of our people [… and] victim of an open conspiracy by our enemy."
During the 1970s, the group set up bookstores and chapters in Trinidad, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.. According to former follower Saadik Redd, York had between 2,000 and 3,000 followers during the 1970s. Their headquarters was at Bushwick, Brooklyn, until 1983. A portion of the community moved to Sullivan County, New York, to a site they called Camp Jazzir Abba. More people stayed in Brooklyn until about 1991.
A Muslim cleric, Bilal Philips, published The Ansar Cult in America in 1988, denouncing the movement as un-Islamic. Phillips relied heavily on testimonies of former adherents in describing the group's beliefs and practices.
In the late 1980s, York borrowed from numerous religious and esoteric traditions beyond Islam, creating the "Nuwaubian" movement. York styled his movement in a mixture of Ancient Egypt and Native American themes. York changed his legal name again, from "Issa Al Haadi Al Mahdi" to "Malachi York," effective March 12, 1993.
Former follower Robert J. Rohan had a critical view of York's changes, as noted in this interview:
"Malachi York came up with the idea to move down South ... because he was under FBI investigation," Rohan said. "He provided us as his followers the bogus rationale that we were moving down South to meet our spiritual parents. (He) always was quick to forget that he gave more than one reason for many changes that he introduced throughout the organization."
After moving to Georgia, York and his followers claimed affiliation with Masons and with the Jewish, Christian and Egyptian faiths. "Once he started changing religious ideas, the older followers became skeptical and left the group," Rohan said. "That was what happened to me."
Among its themes, the Nuwaubians borrowed a claim to indigenous ancestry, perhaps from the Washitaw Nation (a Louisiana Black separatist group led by an eccentric 'empress'). They claimed to be indigenous people, named Yamasee (claiming affiliation with the confederation of Muscogee (Creek) Native American nations in the Georgia area) as well as "Moors." They claimed a prehistoric migration to America "before the continents drifted apart". At this point, the group called itself "Yamassee Native American Moors of the Creek Nation". During the early 2000s, York presided at Tama-Re styled as "Our Own Pharoah NETER A'aferti Atum-Re", leader and chief mystagogue of "The Ancient Egiptian Order."
Political influence in Georgia
Initially the Nuwaubians were considered eccentric but tolerable. But tensions increased locally when they distributed leaflets attacking whites and claiming racial persecution in a zoning conflict. They had set up a nightclub in a warehouse on their property. They alienated many residents of the area, both black and white.
Tensions with county authorities increased in 1998, when the county sought an injunction against construction and uses that violated zoning. At the same time, the Nuwaubian community increased its leafletting of Eatonton and surrounding areas, charging white officials with racial discrimination and striving to increase opposition to them. Threats mounted and an eviscerated dog carcass was left at the home of the county attorney.
Within Putnam County, the Nuwaubians lost black support, in part by trying to take over the NAACP chapter. But outside, they appealed to national activists, claiming to be racially persecuted in the county. During this period, the group maintained Holy Tabernacle stores "in more than a dozen cities in the U.S., the United Kingdom and Trinidad," and continued to gain revenues from them. York purchased a $557,000 mansion for his own use in Athens, Georgia, about 60 miles away, where the University of Georgia is located.
In 2001, the group put up their own candidates, associated with the Republican Party, for public office, including sheriff. Their candidates were defeated.
In conjunction with a Nuwaubian Nation parade held in Augusta, Georgia in February 2001, the office of Augusta mayor Bob Young (1999–2005) published a proclamation written by the Nuwaubian organization, stating the group's beliefs. Quotes include "the Nuwbuns were the dark, brown-to-black-skin, wooly-hair original Eygyptians." "[T]he Black race's greatness has been accepted in America and many books as people of Timbuktu Africa or the Olmecians from Uganda, Africa, who migrated and walked here to North and South America to set up colonies way before the continental drift."
In an interview with a reporter from the The Augusta Chronicle, Mayor Young said that he had not personally read the statement prior to its release. He explained that his office customarily releases proclamations drafted and submitted for publication by civic groups without subjecting them to substantial content review. He suggested that such proclamations do not constitute official positions of the mayor's office or statements of the mayor's views.
In 2002 York was arrested on federal charges of child molestation and racketeeering, including transport of minors for sexual use. He was convicted in 2004 by a jury in federal court and sentenced to 135 years in prison. His appeal failed, and the US Supreme Court declined to hear the last appeal. Tama-Re was sold in asset forfeiture under the verdict, and the new owners demolished the structures. With the revelations of York's conduct, many followers abandoned the group.
In 2004, seven officers of the Macon, Georgia police department resigned from their jobs in protest against the prosecution of York. Five of those officers were later hired by the Clarke County, Georgia jail as guards. Four of them were fired in 2006 (the fifth resigned) in the wake of charges that they were smuggling Nuwaubianist literature into the jail, corresponding with the prisoner York, encouraging inmates to rebel against white guards, and showing favoritism to Nuwaubian prisoners. The jail commander was fired after he began an investigation of Nuwaubianist influence at the jail. He has said he believes that he was fired because he undertook this investigation.
Influence upon hip-hop
As "Dr. York," the movement leader was active as a vocalist and music producer in Brooklyn before leaving the area. During this time, his Nuwaubian teachings had an effect upon hip hop and Black culture in New York. Journalist Adam Heimlich of the New York Press suggested the following were influenced by York:Jaz-O, Doug E. Fresh, Afrika Bambaataa, Kelvin Mercer (Posdnuos) from De La Soul, Prodigy from Mobb Deep, and MF Doom.
In his article on York's cult, Heimlich reviewed some of the leader's published works. He wrote that York had borrowed from a variety of sources for his ideas:
A partial list, from my notes, of places I'd encountered Nuwaubian notions before includes Chariots of the Gods and the Rael's embellishments on that book, conspiracy lit, UFO lit, the human potential movement, Buddhism and new-age, astrology, theosophy and Blavatsky, Leonard Jeffries and other Afrocentrics, Cayce, LaRouche, alternative medicine, self-help lit, Satanism, the Atkins diet, numerology and yoga. Many of these York mentions by name. There are also extensive discourses on the Torah, Gospels and Koran, as well as on Rastafarianism, the Nation of Islam and the Five Percent Nation.
Among the indie hip hop ranks, there are Nuwaubians who perform what they call Nu-wop, such as Daddi Kuwsh, Twinity, Nefu Amun Hotep, 9thScientist, Scienz of Life, Ntelek, Jedi Mind Tricks, and The Lost Children of Babylon. On Where Light's "Swords of Malachai", Rasul lets loose: 'When my tongue swings in the form of a double-edged sword, it brings forth Nuwaubu, which is right Knowledge, wisdom and understanding.'"
In an article for Honor Nation, A. L. JakeAl Reum speculated that the controversial Native American kitsch costumes and props from OutKast's 46th Annual Grammy Awards performance in 2004 were inspired by the Nuwaubian belief about the Native Americans being "Moors" in origin.
Southern Poverty Law Center described the Nuwaubianism belief system as "mix[ing] black supremacist ideas with worship of the Egyptians and their pyramids, a belief in UFOs and various conspiracies related to the Illuminati and the Bilderbergers" and quoted York's letter dated Nov. 10, 2004 as: "The Caucasian has not been chosen to lead the world. They lack true emotions in their creation. We never intended them to be peaceful. They were bred to be killers, with low reproduction levels and a short life span." Another explanation has Caucasians descend from Cain: "Adam and Eve were sent to the Aegean Islands between Asia and Europe, where they started having children, and each couple's first born child was an Albino and those Albinos are called Cain in the Bible, and Cain is short for Caucasian."
In 1994 Ghazi Y. Khankan, director of the New York office of the Council on American–Islamic Relations, commented about York and his group based on their history in Brooklyn. He said, "It's a cult, in my opinion, and in Islam there are no cults. They consider their leader a prophet, which means they have deviated from the Islamic way." The superficial similarity of York's beliefs to those of the Heaven's Gate cult led to some worried newspaper articles after that group's mass suicide during the appearance of Comet Hale–Bopp in 1997, in which the cult was reported to have said that a spacecraft was following the comet.
York taught a number of "revealing" pseudo-etymologies of English words, for instance:
- be-lie-eve: to lie to Eve's children.
- from "Carcass-Asian" meaning "Degenerated Asian"
- from the Greek "dys" (hard, difficult or against) and the Latin "lexia" (law), meaning "to go against the law"
- from the Hebrew letters Gomar, Oz, Dubar, signifying "wisdom – strength – beauty"; alternately, this word comes from reversing the letters of "dog"
- "It was against the law for Europeans to have sex with 'blacks.' According to the Act of 1705 AD, which states in part: '… whatsoever white man or woman being free shall intermarry with a Negro shall be committed to prison for six months without bail, and pay 10 pounds to the use of the parish. Ministers marrying such persons shall pay 10,000 pounds of tobacco.' At the time, certain European men that wanted to disobey the law would come into black neighborhoods and honk their horns. Back then car horns made a honk sound, not a beep sound. Thus, the black neighbors would say, 'the honkies are here,' in reference to the European men who would pay the 'black women' to have sex with them."
- a combination of the words "Jah" and "Zeus"
- from the Egyptian word "usa" meaning "eye"
- "Nuwaubians Arrested in Common-Law Scam" Southern Poverty Law Center (Winter 2003).
- Adherents.com reports an estimated 550 adherents as of 1999 , citing Copeland, Larry (USA Today). "Race, Religion, Rhetoric Simmer in Georgia Town", The Salt Lake Tribune, 18 September 1999.
- Moser, Bob. "United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors Meets Its Match in Georgia". Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Report. Fall 2002.
- Philips, Abu Ameenah Bilal. The Ansar Cult in America, Tawheed Publications, 1988, p. 1 . Philips shows that in 1975, York's publications changed his declared birth year from 1935 to 1945, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the birth of The Mahdi, who is popularly believed to have been born in 1845. See also York's birth certificate as shown on then uwaubian-hotep.net website.
- Moser, Bob. "Savior in a Strange Land: A black supremacist cult leader meets his match in rural Georgia," Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Report 107 (Fall, 2002)
- "York, founder and kingpin of the group Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, pleaded guilty in what prosecutors called the largest case ever mounted against a single child molester. […] Some of York's cult members, taught to believe he was the target of a vendetta by white racists and 'house niggers,' have remained loyal. But several of the formerly faithful have denounced York. His driver during the 1970s, Saadik Redd, told the Macon Telegraph he hopes his daughter—still a disciple of York's—will join other Nuwaubians in leaving the group. 'I hope they can see the fallacy in him,' Saadik said, 'and understand that the whole thing was a lie.'" Black Supremacist 'Savior' Guilty of Mass Molestation, Southern Poverty Law Center, Intelligence Report, Spring 2003, Issue number: 109."
- U.S. v. Dwight D. York, a.k.a. Malakai Z. York, etc. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, D.C. Docket No. 02-00027-CR-CAR-5-1, October 27, 2005 
- Palmer (2010), p. 1.
- Palmer (2010), pp. xv–xvi.
- According to a scan of a court document presented at nuwaubianfacts.com
- Sharon E. Crawford, "Former Nuwaubian writes book, tells how York duped followers," The Macon Telegraph, 14 March 2005, posted at New Age Fraud website; accessed 26 May 2016
- Matthew I. Pinzur, "Nuwaubians, Who Are These People?", The Macon Telegraph, May 15, 2000.
- Gallagher, Eugene V. (2004). The New Religious Movements Experience in America. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-313-32807-7., p. 145
- Moser, Bob. "'Savior' in a Strange Land: A black supremacist cult leader meets his match in rural Georgia", Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Report 107 (Fall, 2002), as archived by the Internet Archive March 2005; Archived 7 January 2016 at WebCite
- Palmer, Susan. "Cult Fighting in Middle Georgia," Religion in the News. Summer 2006, Vol. 9, No. 1. Quote: "In 2001, the Nuwaubians put up their own (Republican) candidates for public office [in Putnam County, Georgia] – including sheriff. Prior to the primary, the county Board of Registrars declared 196 Nuwaubians ineligible to vote because they had not established residence in the county."
- Eckenrode, Vicky (February 25, 2001). "Mystery circles Georgia's clan of Nuwaubians". The Augusta Chronicle.
- "4 deputies fired after jail probe". Athens Banner-Herald. November 23, 2006.
- Johnson, Joe (June 22, 2007). "Fired jailer sues sheriff: Probe of cult influence at issue". Athens Banner-Herald.
- Heimlich, Adam. "Black Egypt: A Visit to Tama-Re," New York Press, 8 November 2000 
- Imarisha, Walidah. "Right Rhyming: Philly's Lost Children of Babylon spread the Nuwaubu word", Philadelphia City Paper, 8 February 2001
- Reum, A.L. JakeAl. "American Indian Identity: Tea Parties and Outkast," Honor Nation, 2004 
- "Nuwaubian Nation of Moors" Southern Poverty Law Center
- Palmer, Susan J. (2010). The Nuwaubian Nation: Black Spirituality and State Control. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 978-0-7546-6255-6., page 16
- DENNIS HEVESI, "Muslims Leave Bushwick; The Neighbors Ask Why", New York Times, 24 April 1994, accessed 26 May 2016
- e.g., Lasseter, Tom. "Tensions Simmer Around a Black Sect in Georgia," New York Times June 29, 1999
- York, Malachi Z. GOD, God, god — What Is The Difference? Scroll #66 
- York, Malachi Z. Who Lived Before The Adam and Eve Story?
- Muhammad, Isa (York, M. Z.) The Paleman
- York, Malachi Z. Let's Set The Record Straight Scroll #360
- York, Malachi Z. Jesus Found in Egipt
- Susan Palmer, The Nuwaubian Nation: Black Spirituality and State Control, Ashgate New Religions (2010), ISBN 978-0-7546-6255-6.
- Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, The Ansar Cult in America, Tawheed Publications (1988), reprint: Islamic Book Service (2003), ISBN 978-81-7231-416-3.
- Nuwaubian Nightmare Washington Times by Robert Stacy McCain, June 2, 2002
- "They Came from Zeta Reticuli". Susan Palmer's "The Nuwaubian Nation", review of Palmer (2010) by Massimo Introvigne