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Today, Nation of Islam leader, the Honorable Louis Farrakhan, is celebrating his 84th birthday. The longtime leader of the Black Muslim sect has overseen the NOI since the late ‘70’s and is still going strong on behalf of Black America.

Farrakhan was born Louis Eugene Walcott on this day in 1933 in the Bronx. After a short time in Barbados, Farrakhan and his mother relocated to the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston. As a boy, Farrakhan became a prodigious violinist who played with some of Boston’s top symphonies. That love of music carried over into his early 20’s, and he chased a career as an entertainer.

Under the name “The Charmer,” Farrakhan released a few calypso records and even had some hits that made the charts. However, in 1955, his fortunes would change when a fellow band member invited Farrakhan to a Saviour’s Day event in Chicago to hear the Honorable Elijah Muhammad speak. Soon after, Farrakhan and his wife converted joined the Nation Of Islam and began following its teachings.

Like Muhammad’s star pupil and national spokesman Malcolm X, Farrakhan rose in the ranks and was a deputy to the fiery leader. He was mentored heavily by Malcolm X and their connection took them through Chicago to Harlem, commanding some of the more well-known NOI temples. After Malcolm X’s assassination in 1965, Farrakhan became the Nation Of Islam’s spokesman.

In 1975, Muhammad passed and the mantle of leadership passed to his son, then known as Warith Deen Mohammed. Dean Muhammad eventually became Sunni Muslim, bringing much of the NOI to the religion and overseeing the largest group conversion to Islam in United States history. Farrakhan first joined with Muhammad but broke away in 1978 to form the NOI with a few holdover members. The following year, Farrakhan established the NOI’s Final Call newspaper

Farrakhan approached his version of the NOI as a Black nationalist group. A fiery orator, Farrakhan struck fear in white America with his bold stances and often controversial statements against Jewish people and the media. In 1995, he organized the Million Man March on the National Mall, bringing up to a million Black men together for a Day Of Atonement.

In recent times, Farrakhan has become more welcoming of differing views. Unlike his mentor Muhammad, he embraces youthful expression, including music genres such as Hip-Hop and R&B. He has also continued campaigns in the same mold as the Million Man March and similar other gatherings over the decades.

Farrakhan has been married to his wife, Khadijah, since 1953. They have nine children together.

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