They Were Silenced, But Used Their Faith To Fight Back

“We are in the same boat.” – Arabic Proverb. When white enslavers tried to violently erase their faith, these Black communities found ways to resist that would not only preserve their religion, but shape all of America.

They Were Silenced, But Used Their Faith To Fight Back
Via New York Public Library

One-third of the enslaved Africans forcibly brought to America were Muslim. Enslavers tried beating their faith practices from them – literally – but ultimately failed! Enslaved African Muslims faced many brutalities, the erasure of their spiritual practices being one of them. But they resisted.

Studies show many field songs have similarities with traditional Islamic prayers. These songs birthed an entire music genre – Blues music is heavily influenced by Islamic culture.

Many believe the banjo and guitar originated in West Africa, which has a high Muslim population. Blues influenced Rock ‘n’ Roll and Jazz, meaning American culture has roots in African-Islamic history – a history preserved from resistance.

Some enslaved African Muslims converted to Christianity, but many only pretended to convert for survival. Proof of this comes from their descendents, who remember their elders secretly using Islamic prayer rugs and beads.

Many Southern cemeteries have gravestones etched with Islamic markings. These, and the churches built beside them, face East – the direction Muslims pray.

Descendents of enslaved African Muslims make up 20% of America’s Muslim population. Their ancestors' preservation of religion proves enslaved Africans fought to practice freedom, even within bondage.

Whether or not you’re Muslim, or are descended from enslaved Africans, your ancestral history impacts your spiritual identity. We honor our ancestors by preserving their customs, creating new traditions that better serve us, and allowing others the freedom to do the same.

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