Louis Farrakhan was born Louis Eugene Walcott on May 11, 1933, in The Bronx, New York. He was the youngest of two sons born to Sarah Mae Manning and Percival Clark. His mother was from Saint Kitts and Nevis and his father was Jamaican, although Walcott speculated that his father was of Jewish descent. He never knew his father, taking on the last name of his stepfather, Louis Walcott.
After Walcott’s stepfather died in 1936, his mother moved the family to Boston, Massachusetts, settling in Roxbury. When he was just six years old, Walcott began intense training on the violin. By the age of 13, he had played with the Boston College Orchestra and the Boston Civic Symphony. He went on to win various awards for his musicianship.
Walcott attended Boston Latin School and later graduated from the English High School. He then earned a track scholarship to Winston-Salem Teachers College but had to drop out during his junior year since his wife, Betsy Ross, was experiencing pregnancy-related complications.
In the 1950s, Walcott embarked upon his professional music career under the name The Charmer. He later changed his stage name to Calypso Gene. One of his songs landed on the top 100 Billboard Chart and remained there for five years. While headlining a show in Chicago, Illinois, Walcott was introduced to the Nation of Islam (NOI).
After learning about the NOI, Walcott took the necessary steps to become a registered Muslim. Those applying to join the NOI must copy The Saviour’s Letter (written by the founder of the NOI, Wallace Fard Muhammad) verbatim and then send it to the NOI’s Chicago headquarters. Walcott became registered with the NOI.
After becoming a registered Muslim, Walcott dropped his European surname (slave name) and replaced it with X–he was now Louis X. Muslims take on the unknown variable of ‘X’ until their Islamic name is bestowed upon them.
Elijah Muhammad then changed Louis X’s name to Louis Farrakhan. Farrakhan is a holy name meaning “The Criterion.” Farrakhan was informed by Muhammad that all musicians in the NOI had to choose between music and Islam; Farrakahn chose the latter. He quickly rose through the ranks of the NOI, becoming an assistant minister only nine months after joining.
While Farrakhan received mentorship from Malcolm X, it is speculated–and was speculated while Malcolm X was still alive–that the two ministers were in competition with each other. Farrakhan created the “climate of vilification” by making inflammatory statements about Malcolm X. After Malcolm X’s assassination, Farrakhan was placed in Malcolm X’s former roles with the NOI.
After Warith Deen Mohammed (Elijah Muhammed’s son) stepped in as leader of the NOI, he made serious changes to the organization. Minister Farrakhan re-established the NOI as it was prior to the late 1970s. At the age of 85, Minister Louis Farrakhan continues to lead the NOI, as well as speak comment on social issues that affect the Black community.
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