Ali, Noble Drew (b. January 8, 1886, Simpsonbuck County, N.C.; d. July 20, 1929, Chicago, Ill.), American religious leader who urged African Americans to reject racial labels given by European Americans and to define themselves.

Born Timothy Drew, Noble Drew Ali received little formal education. At 16, he began performing as a circus magician, and traveled the world, during which he was influenced by Eastern religions, especially Islam with its racial inclusivity. He concluded that American blacks were Moors, that they had descended from the Moabites of Canaan, and that their true home was Morocco. Ali also believed that before the American Revolution, blacks had been free. Only at the Continental Congress of 1779 had blacks been forced into slavery and stripped of their Moorish identity.

In 1913, based on these principles, he founded the Moorish Science Temple of America in Newark, New Jersey and published the Holy Koran of the Moorish Holy Temple of Science, as a catechism. Membership requirements were the acceptance of Moorish identity and a one-dollar contribution. By the mid-1920s, temples had been established in Detroit, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York, and Chicago, the organization's new headquarters. Because of its rapid growth, Ali could no longer manage the organization alone, and he appointed several associates, some of whom exploited the rank-and-file membership by selling Old Moorish Healing Oil and Moorish Purifier Bath Compound. Ali sought to regain control, firing the business manager Claude D. Green, whom he fired. Green was killed in March 1929, and Ali though, not in Chicago at the time of the killing, was arrested for the murder. He died while in jail awaiting trial, and it was commonly believed that he was beaten to death.

 

Contributed By:

Robert Fay