Muslims in the USA emerged in the backdrop of various historic periods and events starting with the pre-Columbus landings of Muslim traders, which have mainly remained obscure from the public historic records. The following major historic events and periods, factors and players constitute the backdrop of early Muslim history in the USA.
1. Pre-Columbus landings of Muslim traders
2. The systematic European colonization began in 1492 by the landing of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean and continued into the coming centuries with the main purpose of finding gold at the expense of lives of millions of Native Americans.
3. Slave Trade in America began in the 1530s by Spanish conquistadores and by the British in August 1619. The “peculiar institution” officially ended on Dec. 6, 1865, by the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. According to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, out of 12.5 million Africans who were shipped, about 10.7 million survived the dreaded Middle Passage, disembarking in North America, the Caribbean and South America. Yet, the actual number of enslaved Africans maybe five to ten times more, as the Slave Trade Database does not account for the numbers breed like animals after the U.S. government’s 1807 ban on importation of those clandestinely and illegally transported to the Western Hemisphere. After centuries of being treated as property and tortured by whips, carpenters' tools, chains, cotton presses, hackles, handsaws, hoe handles, iron or branding livestock, nails, pokers, smoothing irons, singletrees, steelyards, and tongs, many, but not all, Africans were freed after the Emancipation Proclamation. It is estimated that at least 20 to 30 percent of the slaves brought to North America were Muslims; most were forced to convert to Christianity.
4. Black churches, specifically African Methodist Episcopal (AME) and Baptist, gave spiritual, religious, and material sustenance to African-American communities during and after slavery. Historically black churches, such as Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, where Dylan Roof massacred nine African Americans in a Bible Study Class, helped sustain communities against the ravages of Jim Crow, poverty, and racial violence that savaged African-American life during this period.
5. Masonic Lodges and The Unchurched: Just like the White Church, the Black Church had membership requirements. Many freed slaves and other poor Blacks found themselves unwelcomed in the Church as there was a sense of social hierarchy based on one’s background and social status. Then there were others who did not find church appropriate for various reasons. Many such found themselves welcomed in the black lodges where they experienced a friendly social environment and economic support.
6. Ahmadiyya Missionaries first arrived for their missionary work in America in 1920. Mufti Muhammad Sadiq arrived from England to initiate the group’s propagation mission. The Ahmadiyya were the first to translate into English and distribute copies of the Qur’an, Maulana Muhammad Ali translation. Unlike orthodox Muslims from other countries living in America, the Ahmadiyya were prolific in calling others to their version of Islam, especially African Americans. Many early prominent African American jazz musicians in New York accepted what they thought to be Islam through the Ahmadiyya. Many came to Islam by first joining the Ahmadiyya mission. As the True teachings of Islam became known to people in the lodges and Ahmadiyya organization, many converted to Sunni Islam. Currently, there may be about 20,000 members of the organization.
· Black Pilgrimage to Islam, Robert Dannin