Sufi Abdul Hamid

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Sufi Abdul Hamid (born Eugene Brown) (January 6, 1903 in Lowell, Massachusetts - July 30, 1938) was an African-American religious and labor leader, among the first African-American converts to Islam, and antisemite. An admirer of Mufti Amin al-Husseini.[1][2] He is best known for his role in the business boycotts in Harlem in the early 1930s that were designed to draw attention to discriminatory employment practices of white, mainly Italian and Jewish, business owners.[3]

In Chicago, he styled himself Bishop Conshankin, a Buddhist cleric, then moved to New York in 1932, taking up residence in Harlem. Despite converting to Islam, he probably had no connection with the Nation of Islam. He eventually styled himself His Holiness Bishop Amiru Al-Mu-Minin Sufi A. Hamid, and his press man claimed that he had been born in Egypt beneath the shadow of a pyramid. He sported a mustache and dressed flamboyantly, wearing a Nazi-style military shirt, gold-lined cape, purple turban, and a dagger in his belt.

During the Great Depression, unemployment among black people in Harlem reached 50%. Hamid initiated an effort to encourage white business owners in Harlem to hire black workers, often picketing stores and giving speeches on street corners.[4]

Hamid especially targeted Jewish store owners, and encouraged black shoppers to boycott certain stores that did not hire black people, intimidating them into hiring workers from his own private labor union[citation needed]. His usual modus operandi was to collect one dollar dues from each unemployed black worker who wanted a job at a store before starting his pressure campaign to get them hired.[citation needed] Eventually, he became wealthy[citation needed].

Hamid was openly anti-Semitic. Giving speeches from stepladders on 125th Street, he declared himself the only man who could stop the Jews, accusing them of spreading filth and disease, and calling on his followers to tear out the tongue of any Jew they met. He boasted that he was the "only one fit to carry on the war against the Jews", and vowed "an open bloody war against the Jews who are much worse than all other whites." This caused him to be known as the "Black Hitler".[5]

After Jewish store owners met with New York mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, Hamid was arrested, but later released.[6]

His union changed names many times, from the Negro Industrial and Clerical Alliance to the Afro-American Federation of Labor. Adam Clayton Powell briefly joined forces with him in labor protests and store boycotts, and broke ranks when his rhetoric moved beyond targeting whites and Jews to light-skinned black people.[citation needed]

Violent clashes with rival black unions led to Hamid's arrest for stabbing Hammie Snipes, a former follower of Marcus Garvey who became a Communist labor union organizer.[citation needed]

Eventually, the courts barred Hamid from his picketing, forcing him to focus his energies on his mosque, the Universal Holy Temple of Tranquility, where he dubbed himself a bishop, causing his nickname to change from the Black Hitler to the Black Mufti.[citation needed]

He married Stephanie St. Clair, who ran Harlem's numbers racket. After she shot him, he divorced her and married candle shop owner and fortune-teller Dorothy Matthews, who styled herself Madame Fu Futtam, and claimed to be Asian[citation needed].

By 1938, Hamid had his own private airplane and a white secretary[citation needed]. Attempting to assuage followers that the luxury of owning it was mitigated by keeping it low on fuel, he died in an airplane crash while piloting his own plane; his secretary survived with only a broken elbow[citation needed].

After his death, his widow attempted to keep the mosque going by claiming nightly visitations by him from beyond the grave, predicting that he would return in sixty days, which didn't come true. Not long after the mosque became a dance hall featuring a one-legged dancer[citation needed]. Today, the site at 103 Morningside Avenue is the home of St. Luke's Baptist Church.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • Thomson, Mark, "Sufi Abdul Hamid" in Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, Volume 1 Cary D. Wintz (Ed.), p 459-460.
  • Russell, Thadeus, "Sufi Abdul Hamid" in Harlem Renaissance lives from the African American national biography, Henry Louis Gates (Ed.), p 235-236.
  • "No place like home" Time magazine, 31 July 1964
  • Diner, Hasia R. In the almost promised land: American Jews and Blacks, 1915-1935
  • McDowell, Winston C., "Keeping them 'In the same boat together'?" in African Americans and Jews in the twentieth century: studies in convergence and conflict, Vincent Franklin, pp 227–229.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ [1] What Went Wrong?..., Murray Friedman, Simon and Schuster, Sep 11, 2007, p.93
  2. ^ [2] The Jewish Floridian, January 10, 1986, p.12-a: Farrakhan In Top Echelon ... of that era was Sufi Abdul Hamid. New York's self-styled "Black Hitler." An admirer of Haj Amin el Husseim. the notorious Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Sufi also courted both the German-American Bund and the Christian Front.
  3. ^ [3] Black Hitler Jailed To Await Sentence. The New York Times, Jan. 16, 1935. His name, he said, was Sufi Abdul Hamid. "A year ago he was acquitted in the same court when the police accused him of urging his Negro followers to drive the Jews and Italians out of Harlem."
  4. ^ Russell, p. 235-236
  5. ^ [4]
  6. ^ Russell, p. 235-236