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Franklin Young Students Explore History of Local Muslims

From new mosques to stores specializing in halal, there are signs that the Islamic community is growing

Thanks to John Hope Franklin Young Scholars summer program, middle, and high-schoolers in Durham, North Carolina have started uncovering and documenting the old and rich history of American Muslims in the Atlantic state, Today Duke reported.

“I was triggered by a conversation with a faculty member, who enlightened me that up to 20% of enslaved people who came here were Muslim,” said David Stein, Duke senior educational and program coordinator who oversees the Franklin Scholars project.

“I started asking why don’t we know more about this hidden history.”

The Franklin project, which ran from June 17-21, included a tour of Durham’s local mosques and Islamic centers.

The young students traced the presence of Southern American Muslims throughout their school year by meeting with local community leaders and studying Islamic art and rituals.

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Franklin Young Students Explore History of Local Muslims - About Islam

Scholars visit the Paperhand Puppet Intervention studio in preparation for their study of Islamic puppetry.

Former Durham city planner and author of “The Athaan in the Bull City,” Nazeem Abdul Hakeem served as a tour guide. Hakeem’s book discusses the growth of Durham’s Muslim community and the city’s Muslim sites.

One of the inspirational stories of the project was the 19th century’s writer Omar ibn Said. This African American Muslim has escaped slavery and was imprisoned in Fayetteville when he attempted to pray in a church.

In his cell, Said would write verses from the holy Qur’an onto the walls and later published an autobiography which became one of the most famous works of early African American Muslims.

African American Muslim history extends from the enslavement of Muslim Africans and into the Twentieth-Century Black Muslim Movement.

White Christian slaveowners stripped African Muslims of their faith and forced mass conversions. During the Black Muslim Movement, numerous African Americans reembraced the religion of their forefathers.

Seeking to preserve the legacy of the African American Muslim experience Sapelo Square partnered with Paper in February 2018 and launched Preserving the Legacy, a portrait and interview series, to capture and conserve Black Muslim Life in the US.