“All America is a Prison": The Nation of Islam and the Politicization of African American Prisoners, 1955-1965

Zoe Colley (Lead / Corresponding author)

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    8 Citations (Scopus)


    This article examines the rise of the Nation of Islam (NOI) within America's penal system during the late 1950s and the 1960s. In doing so, it explores the reasons for the NOI's appeal among African American prisoners, its contribution to the politicization of those prisoners, the responses of penal, state and federal authorities to the proliferation of prison mosques, and the way in which imprisoned Black Muslims' campaign for freedom of religious expression established the legal groundwork for the prisoners' rights movement of the late 1960s and the 1970s. This research presents the prison as a locus of black protest and the African American prisoner as an important, but largely overlooked, actor within the black freedom struggle. It calls upon historians to recognize the importance of the prison as both a site and a symbol of black resistance during the post-World War II period.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)393-415
    Number of pages23
    JournalJournal of American Studies
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - May 2014


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