Throughout his life, Khalid Abdul Muhammad was tagged as a “racist hatemonger” and “anti-Semite” but to his followers, he was all for positive change and truth. While a top aide to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, he wasn’t widely known outside the organization until November 1993 when he gave a speech at Kean College in Union, N.J., where he called Jews the “bloodsuckers of the black nation” and described Black American leaders as “house niggers” who had sold out their people to the Whites.
He went on to label the pope “a no-good cracker” and suggested killing every White person remaining in South Africa. His speech was condemned by many, and the Congressional Black Caucus cut ties with Farrakhan. Farrakhan himself was forced to dismiss Muhammad, while the House of Representatives and Senate censured him for the speech.
But these actions or punishments rather kept Muhammad in the spotlight. Surviving an assassination attempt on his life, he went on to become the national chairman of the New Black Panther Party, a Black nationalist organization which modeled itself on the original Black Panther Party founded in 1966.
So, who really was this man “that not even a bullet could stop?’
Born Harold Moore Jr., in Texas in 1948, Muhammad was a preacher growing up. As a child, he delivered sermons from his aunt’s porch to drivers as their cars passed, a report by The New York Times said. He graduated from high school in 1966, before enrolling in Dillard University, a Methodist school in New Orleans, Louisiana to pursue a theological studies degree though some accounts state he didn’t graduate.
While at Dillard, he changed his name to Harold Moore Vann. It was also at Dillard that he became interested in the Black liberation movement after hearing Farrakhan speak. Farrakhan was then a top aide to the leader of the Chicago-based Nation of Islam, Elijah Muhammad, and had come to Dillard to give a speech. Farrakhan gave Muhammad the name Khallid, after the Arab general Khalid ibn al-Walid.
In the early 1970s when the Nation of Islam started losing strength following the death of its leader, Muhammad traveled to Uganda to help dictator Idi Amin outline a plan to overthrow the White government in South Africa. But he returned when he heard that Farrakhan was trying to re-start the sect and make it even more radical.
Upon his return, he rose quickly through the ranks, becoming minister of Mosque 27 in Los Angeles in the late 1970s and then later the leader of security for the Nation of Islam. That role got him closer to Farrakhan as he traveled with him for his speaking engagements. By 1991, Muhammad had become the national assistant to Farrakhan, and this position gave him a bigger role — the opportunity to speak before national audiences. As sources indicated, his position was held by both Malcolm X and Farrakhan under Elijah Muhammad, enabling them to have a “following” and “stature” of their own.
Muhammad would also remain popular in the African-American community, particularly among the youth. Excerpts of his fiery speeches even appeared in albums by Ice Cube, Public Enemy and X-Clan. In time, Muhammad became known as “the new Malcolm X”. As Farrakhan’s top aide, he was also seen by some as a leading candidate to replace Farrakhan as leader of the Nation of Islam.
But the two experienced a break in their relationship when Farrakhan was compelled to dismiss Muhammad after his 1993 speech which launched attacks against Whites, Jews, Catholics and Black civil rights leaders. Farrakhan, at the time of the speech, was moving toward “moderation” and making attempts to join with mainstream Black civil rights leaders.
Though Muhammad never spoke ill of Farrakhan, many later claimed he was trying to undermine the latter’s leadership. Muhammad denied such claims. “Minister Farrakhan is my spiritual father, leader, teacher and guide,” he said in Emerge. “And like any good son, I respect the discipline and judgment of my father, and I am not silly enough to run away from home…I am a soldier and I follow a divine chain of command, and I am going to complete my tour of duty.”
Muhammad did tour the country following his dismissal from the Nation of Islam, making public speeches at various universities. It was during one of those speeches at the University of California in Riverside in 1994 that he was nearly killed. A former Nation of Islam minister shot him in the foot but he survived, later establishing the New Black Panther Party and the New Black Muslims. In June 1998, he led armed members of his two groups to protest the death of James Byrd Jr., a Black man killed by who prosecutors said were members of the Ku Klux Klan.
Before Muhammad’s death from a brain aneurysm in February 2001, he led the 1998 Million Youth March in Harlem, which called for a war on racism. While alive, Muhammad never saw the need for any kind of harmonization between races. In a 1994 interview with Newsday, the African-American activist said: “I don’t have any love for the other side. It’s not in me. I don’t want no integration. I want independence for a nation of my own.”