Firpo Carr's latest book is: "Jehovah's Witnesses:
the African-American Enigma- A Contemporary Study",
LOS ANGELES- While they are probably best known for their door-to-door
proselytizing, author Firbo Carr reports that Jehovah's Witnesses have impacted
the African-American community in ways people don't realize.
In fact, in his just released book- "Jehovah's Witnesses: the African-American
Enigma- A Contemporary Study"- Carr writes that the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X,
and Muhammad Ali all have connections to this American born religion.
"The Nation of Islam does acknowledge the connection but in hushed tones," said
Carr. "They know the influence Witnesses have had on them."
Carr, who holds a doctorate in religious studies, will discuss (actually
discussed now of course) his new book at 7 P.M. Friday July 19, at the talking
Drum Forum at the Harambee Farmer's Market located at Crenshaw Boulevard and
In his book, Carr writes that Wallace D Fard [also known as Fard Muhammad],
founder of the Nation of Islam, was apparently influenced Noble Drew Ali, who
culled information for his organization from Jehovah's Witnesses.
Ali founded the Moorish Science Temple of America in New Jersey in 1913. It
collapsed after his death in 1939, and Fard is suspected of being one of Ali's
Carr said, Fard's Nation of Islam theology was created using tenets from the
Bible, the Koran, and Jehovah's Witnesses teaching tracts.
Fard even urged his followers to get radios to listen to speeches of Joseph F.
Rutherford, leader of the Witnesses, writes Carr
The Malcolm X connection to the Witnesses was even stronger, said the author.
"His mother and father were 'Garveyites' " explained the religious scholar, who
said after Malcolm's father died, his mother took her children to Jehovah's
And then in Norfolk Prison Colony, Malcolm X studied the Bible under Jehovah's
Witness Prescott Adams.
"Garveyites" are individuals who followed the teachings of early 20th century
Black Nationalist leader Marcus Garvey.
Muhammad Ali also came into close personal contact with a Jehovah's Witness,
When the boxing champion refused the draft based on his religious beliefs, he
used the services of Jehovah's Witness lawyer Hayden C. Covington to help win
Covington was the Watchtower attorney who argued Witnesses' ministerial
deferment cases before the United States Supreme Court. In 1955, he had argued
and won more cases before the nation's highest court than any other man in U.S.
So just who are the Witnesses, and what do they believe?. Carr said there are
an estimated 25 to 30 percent who are African-Americans.
"Witnesses are probably closer to primitive Christians; meaning that they are
closer to the [teachings] of ancient Christians of the 1st century" said Carr,
who himself was exposed to both witness and Baptist theology as a child, and
has traveled around the world studying religious philosophies.
Jehovah's Witness Watchtower and Bible and Tract Society was launched in 1887
by Pittsburgh Bible teacher Charles Taze Russell.
People of African descent began to trickle into the organization around the
turn of the century, and came in droves during the 1950s and 1960s, said Carr.
"What they offered that no other religion did was Heaven here on earth. Black
people, especially during the tumultuous 60s were going through a lot", said
Carr. Many didn't like the two choices the majority of other religions offered-
"Heaven" or "Hell."
"Surprisingly a great number didn't want to go to Heaven [or Hell]", said Carr.
"The Witnesses say you can stay here on earth in paradise. The scripture they
often quote is Matthew 5:5- "The meek shall inherit the earth.
"That had a pull with us. We are an agrarian people. Coming from Africa, we
lived off the land, and the [Witness philosophy] struck a chord in the hearts
of black America".
In addition to the concept of an earthly paradise, Witnesses do not believe in
the concept of the equality of the Trinity- The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
They accept that Jesus is the Son of God, but repudiate that the two are the
same. "The Witnesses are an 'open secret' " said Carr. "There right under are
noses in the black communities across the nation. They impact our community in
a subtle fashion more than any other religion. They've been a force for good
without receiving acknowledgement for it, without being thanked. They visit
30,000 people in prison annually".
Additionally, nationwide, Witnesses' legal battles for the right not to salute
the flag have paved the way for people to enjoy this freedom today. Carr said
that among the untrue myths about the Witnesses are that they are an austere
people who don't want to have fun because they don't celebrate holidays.
So what does Carr expect people to take away from his book and lectures?. "An
understanding of what has drawn black leaders to the Witnesses in the first
place," he said. "The fact that they are tapping in on our black collective
psyche. That's why black leaders and thinkers have been drawn to us. It appeals
to blacks to have a paradise on earth; to have an entire world look like
Africa, because Africa has everything. That is the subconscious appeal."
"The reason that they don't celebrate holidays [like Easter and Christmas] is
because of there pagan origins," said Carr. "They want to practice the purity
"Southwest Wave" dated 7/17/02 in the "Word & Worship" section, p. A13