Name at birth: Louis Eugene Walcott
Louis Farrakhan is the longtime head of the African-American religious organization the Nation of Islam. Farrakhan is known as a powerful speaker who has promoted black separatism and self-reliance, and is equally well known for his incendiary comments about whites, Jews, Asians, and others whom he feels have exploited blacks. Farrakhan was encouraged to join the Nation of Islam in 1955 by Malcolm X. The group's leader, Elijah Muhammad, died in 1975 and Farrakhan founded a splinter group with the same name in 1978. Since then he has been a prominent figure in American politics while making the Nation of Islam a force in black urban communities. Farrakhan organized the Million Man March in 1995, in which hundreds of thousands of black men converged on Washington, D.C. for a day of speeches and unity. Ten years later the Millions More March celebrated the anniversary and included women and children. Farrakhan announced in September of 2006 that he was stepping down as leader of the Nation of Islam for an indefinite period, due to health problems related to his treatment for prostate cancer. His speech, "One Nation Under God," was billed in February of 2007 as his farewell address.
Malcolm X split with Elijah Muhammad in 1964 and was later assassinated by three men with ties to the Nation of Islam; many of Malcolm X’s supporters have blamed Farrakhan for instigating the murder, either directly or indirectly. Farrakhan has denied this, but in 2000 he expressed regret for speaking against Malcolm X, saying ‘I may have been complicit in words that I spoke leading up” to the murder.
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