Following the group’s inception in the late 1960s, York soon adapted the group under the new name to the “Nubian Islamic Hebrews.” An important era in the history of the Nuwaubian movement, it saw the introduction of the “Nubic” lexicon (out of which their final name of “Nuwaubian” develops of out), while also seeing Judaic facets in the group’s doctrine and visual narrative, while the introduction of Christian elements can best be traced to this epoch. Further, this era formalized the group as a religious sect and saw the clarifying of many of their religious traditions and practical customs.1
During this period, it is significant to note that the Nuwaubians “did not reject mainstream religion. Rather than subscribe the one dogma, the gave equal primacy to Judaism, Christianity and Islam thereby affirming and legitimizing all as co-equal and co-legitimate.”2 Specifically, the way that Judaism and Christianity were sublimated into the current ideology of the group reflects the greater trend of socio-religiously linked belief, in which both aspects of Christianity and Judaism are considered through the prism of the black American experience when adopted by the movement. In examining each separately, we can come to understand how the Nuwaubians’ cultural dialogue with Judaism and (the culturally dominant) Christian influenced, altered or otherwise found relevance within the movement and their specific form of religious, black separatism.
When considering the Judeo-Christian influence on the Nuwaubians, it should be understood further why beliefs and aesthetics are adopted in the manner which they appear within the movement. More pertinently, it is beneficial to frame the conversation in terms of Lincoln and Mamiya’s postulate regarding black American culture in the context of religion, and specifically white, Western Christianity: “Culture is the sum of the options for creative survival.”3 An interesting pithy, this encapsulates the greater trend of the Nuwaubians’ interactions with mainstream religious movements. Thus, the Nuwaubians’ interactions with Judeo-Christian traditions suggest their efforts to carve out a place for the religiously and socially conscious black American, rather than a rejection and deliberate alteration of doctrine without discernable reason.
In one significant interaction with Christian tradition, the Nuwaubians
challenged the Christian principle of Trinity replacing it with the principle of Quadity. In this case, they argued that the former was an aberration occasioned by European masculine chauvinism, whilst the latter was the original notion—a notion that has its roots in Africa.4
This deliberate reorientation of a Christian dogma demonstrates the pattern that characterizes Nuwaubian interactions with popular religious culture. Further, as noted by several scholars,5 this interaction with popular religion is not merely a facet of the Nuwaubians, but often exists within black nationalist movements in relation to popular religion. There is a larger trend of rejecting the white hegemony and rather “calls for democratization of knowledge and its epistemology to reflect the experiences of non-Westerners,”6 which ultimately reorients the belief in the spiritual sense, while also reflecting the overall socially-conscious approach that black movements employ when interacting with religion deliberately.
However, in examining the role that Judaism itself influenced the Nuwaubians, we would be remiss to only analyze this relationship through the Judeo-Christian framework without understanding Judaism as its own unique influencer and religious tradition. Throughout their lengthy and complex history, there are several instances when the Nuwaubians lean on their “Hebrew” ancestry and identity, as seen in their eras as the Nubian Islamic Hebrews (1968-1972) and the Holy Tabernacle Ministries (1992-1993). Their interactions with Judaism, however, are unique as the Nuwaubians “reject […] the premise that Judaism has anything to do with race,”7 eliminating any suggestions of Judaism as an ethnic category and rather situating the religion within African tradition, claiming Judaism as a historically African belief. Given the significant role that Afrocentricity plays within the Nuwaubian belief, this re-occuring action of “syncretiz[ing] elements of African culture into their religion”8 proves unsurprising.
1 Emeka C. Anaedozie, Post Civil Rights Black Nationalism: The Nuwaubian Nation of Moors’ Model 1967-2002, (Morgan State University, 2013), 89.
2 Ibid., 127.
3 C. Eric Lincoln and Lawrence H. Mamiya, The Black Church in the African American Experience, (Durham: Duke University Press, 1990), 3.
4 Anaedozie, Post Civil Rights Black Nationalism, 9.
5 For a more in-depth discussion of black iterations of Christianity and other mainstream religious practices, see Lincoln and Mamiya’s The Black Church in the African American Experience and Yosef ben–Jochannan’s African Origins of Major “Western Religions”: The Black Man’s Religion Volume I.
6 Anadedozie, Post Civil Rights Black Nationalism, 11.
7 Ibid., 90.
“Nuwaubic.” https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nuwaubic.png (accessed November 30, 2018).