Muslims in America: Examining the Facts by Dr. Craig Considine

“The Facts: Unbeknownst to many Americans today, the United States has never existed without the presence of Muslims. Several studies elaborate on how the history of Muslims in America was immeasurably augmented by the transatlantic slave trade. As many as 15 million West Africans were enslaved by Europeans beginning in the 16th century (Diouf, 1998). Among those West Africans, approximately 10 to 20 percent were Muslim (Austin, 1997). Other scholars have suggested that upward of 30 percent of all enslaved Africans were Muslims (Ahmed, 2003).”

“The Muslims who were enslaved and brought to the Americas are thought to have been mostly well learned and literate. Consistent with the basic teachings of Islam, education was paramount to the West African civilizations. Timbuktu, in modern-day Mali, was one of the great centers of learning in the world, with libraries having up to 700 volumes and numerous schools ( well over 150 during the 16th century) ( Dirks, 2006).”

“Most of the Muslim slaves from West Africa were literate in at least Arabic, and it has been estimated that the percentage of literacy in Arabic among African slaves was actually higher than the percentage of literacy in English among their Christian owners (Dirks, 2006).”

“Al Haj Omar Ibn Said, a notable American Muslim slave with family roots in West Africa, is said to have been born and educated in the modern country of Senegal, where he served as an Islamic scholar of the Fula people. He is known for 14 documents that he wrote in Arabic, including an autobiography that detailed his life as a trader, soldier, and faithful Muslim. Said wrote that he performed the hajj, an Arabic word referring to the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, required by all Muslims (Considine, 2017: 185 ), and studied the Qur’an for 25 years before being sold into slavery in 1807 (The Pluralism Project, n.d. ).”

“Said’s handwritten works are now part of the North Carolina Collection in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Today, in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the Omar Ibn Said mosque on Southern Avenue stands as a testament to his legacy. A nearby historical marker notes that Said was a slave, scholar, and African-born author who penned in autobiography in Arabic. Other details of his life on the marker show that he lived in Blady County and worshipped with local Presbyterians. Muslims from the territories of North Africa and the Ottoman Empire are considered to be the second group of Muslims to arrive on U.S. soil.”

“One European Christian, the English sea captain and privateer Sir Francis Drake, commanded 25 to 30 English ships, whose shipmen liberated approximately 500 prisoners at Saint Augustine in Florida between 1585 and 1586. Dirks ( 2006) notes that about 300 or more of these liberated slaves were North African and Turkish galley slaves. North African and Ottoman captives from the Mediterranean region, usually called Moors and Turks, respectively, were needed to perform menial duties for their Spanish overlords in places such a5 Saint Augustine. Further evidence of Muslim galley slaves in the Americas is documented by the Smithsonian, which estimated that many of the Colombian city of Cartagena’s slave population were Muslims.”

In 1586, Drake besieged and captured the town, instructing his men to treat Frenchmen, Turks, and black Africans with respect (Lawler, 201 7). Edward D. Neill, an historian of early American history, wrote in his book The Virginia Carolorum that several shipments of Turkish and Armenian indentured servants, both men and women, were present in the British colony of Jamestown, Virginia, in the early 17th century, meaning that the slaves Drake captured were likely of Turkish and Armenian descent (Neill, 1886).”

“These hypotheses are confirmed in recordings by The Virginia Carolorum, which note that several of the Turks in Jam es town included the names “Mehmet the Turk,” “Ahmad the Turk,” “Joseph the Armenian,” and “Sayyan Turk” (Neill, 1886). A 1652 colonial document also refers to a “Turk” in Virginia, who wrote in the Turkish language. In the same year, Governor William Boyd of Virginia referred to a Turkish merchant in a letter (Dirks, 2006).”

“An obscure group known as the Melungeons also had a presence in precolonial and colonial America. Of mixed racial background, the Melungeons settled in the Appalachian region as early as the 17th century (Dirks, 2006). According to Wayne Winkler (2004), the Melungeons are a hybrid group with African, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean ancestry.”

“A DNA study published in the Journal of Genetic Genealogy in 2012 found that Melungeon families are the offspring of sub-Saharan African men and white women of northern or central European origin. Further details about the ancestry of the Melungeons are provided by Kathy Lyday, a researcher based at Elon University. Lyday claims that a Spanish influence is likely, given that the Southwest and the mountains were explored and settled by Spaniards as far back as Hernando de Soto, a conquistador who marched through the region in 1540 (Neal, 2015 ). These Spaniards likely brought African Muslim slaves with them, and they probably intermarried with Natives.”

Source: Muslims in America: Examining the Facts

The American Nations of North and South America, Vol. 1

“In proceeding from the known to the unknown: we ascertain that a multitude of nations has come to America since 1492, as colonist or visitors. The principal was 1. Spanish: who have colonized or conquered from New Mexico to Chilli, and from Florida to Buenos Ayres. But they came not alone, and have brought along with them as auxiliaries. 1. Italians, 2. Flemish, 3. Biscayans, 4. Canarians, &,c., while as slaves 5. Moors of Mauritania, and G. Many Africannegro nations. 2. Portuguese: who have colonized the whole of Brazil, and brought there besides many Negro nations, some Moors, Gypsies, Chinese, &c.”



“Thus it is a positive fact that many ancient nations of the east, such as the Lybians, Moors, Etruscans, Phoenicians, Hindus, *c. had heard of America, or knew nearly as much of it as we did of Australia and Polynesia 100 years ago.” “Nearly all the ancient sciences and useful primitive arts were known in America, as well as commerce and navigation, symbolic and alphabetic writing, nearly all the Asiatic religions, &c. The most civilized nations had even colleges and universities, canals and paved roads, splendid temples, and monuments, *c.”



“American anthropology will teach that there were men of all sizes, feature, and complexions, in this hemisphere before 1492?: notwithstanding the false assertions of many writers, who take one nation for the whole American group.” “The Uskihs, the Purunays, the Parias, the Chons, &c. were as white as the Spaniards, 50 such tribes were found in South America; while many tribes of Choco, the Manabis, the Yaruras, &c., were as black as negroes.”

“All the other shades of brown, tawny and coppery, were scattered everywhere. There was not a single red man in America unless painted such. Some tribes had scanty beards as the Tartars, Chinese, Berbers, &c., others bushy beards. The Tinguis or Patagons were 7 or 8 feet high and the Guaymas only 4 or 5 feet.”

Source: The American Nations: or Outlines of a National History of the Ancient and Modern Nations of North and South America

Journal of a tour to Malta, Greece, Asia Minor, Carthage, Algiers, Port Mahon & Spain


“It was stated to me by several Spanish gentlemen, both here and at Malaga, as a fact, recorded in the annals of Granada, that at the final expulsion of the Moors, in 1487, a royal order was made by Ferdinand and Isabella, that the families of the Moors then remaining in Spain, should be transported to the African shore, and landed in Morocco, at the expense of the Spanish government.”

“For this purpose, Spanish vessels were employed, and contracts made with the masters of certain stipulated price per head, for all the Moors they should transport. They were shipped principally to Malaga and Almeria. Several of these vessels performed two trips in a day and night.”

“This despatch excited some surprise among the Spanish officers; and upon inquiry, the found, that as soon as these vessels had advanced 20 or 30 miles from the harbors, the Moors were thrown overboard, and suffered to perish in the sea. This accounted for the speedy return of the vessels for a fresh cargo. But such was the spirit of the nation at that period, and such their hatred for the Moors, that no measure were taken to punish the perpetrators of these acts of cruelty.”

“When we consider these barbarities, and those exercised by Pizarro and other Spaniards upon the unoffending and defenseless natives of South America, none can be found so blind as not to see the manifestation of the divine displeasure of an avenging God, visited upon this now wretched, impoverished and degraded nation. That cupidity, that avri sacra fames, which impelled the Spaniards to acts of unexampled cruelty, has entailed a ‘curse not causeless,’ upon their country.” 

Source: Journal of a Tour to Malta, Greece, Asia Minor, Carthage, Algiers, Port Mahon, and Spain, in 1828 (Classic Reprint) Paperback – February 15, 2019

Africas Legacies Of Urbanization: Unfoldi: Unfolding Saga of a Continent


“In the interior of western Africa around the same time, Askia the Great, of Mande ethnicity, established a new ruling dynasty in Songhai by overthrowing the preceding Lemta Tuareg dynasty associated with Sonni Ali. As Songhai expanded, a number of new towns were established or came under its control. One of its early conquest involved Kebbi, a small kingdom lying between the middle Niger and Hausaland whose capital at Same [northwestern Nigeria] was surrounded by seven stone walls (Bovill 1958: 105, 107-108).”

“Aska’s conquest took his empire to the west of Bornu [northeastern Nigeria]. Songhai’s expansion of greatest importance involved its conquest of Hausaland [Niger, northern Nigeria], located at southern end of ancient caravan routes that rant to Timbuktu [Mali] as well as Oualate and Taghaza [southeastern Mauritania]. When King Sonni Ali came to power in 1464 as founder of Songhai, with its capital at Gao [Mali], ancient Mali perceived Songhai as far more menacing threat to it well being than occasional incursions by Europeans along Africa’s Atlantic coast suggest that European incursions in coastal areas initially were without great consequence on the jockeying for economic and political advantage among indigenous states deep in the interior. The Portuguese, Spaniards, and Turks were not the only peoples obsessed with discovering the source of Sudanese gold in the early 16th century. It was because of a similar obsession that the sultan of Moroccan dispatch Leo Africanus south of the Sahara on two reconnaissance trips during this period. In order for Askia to maintain his hold on these Hausa city-states, he also had seized nearby Agadez [Niger] and expelled much of its Tuareg leadership.”

“Even well north of the Sahara, it was only with ambivalence and in stages that Europeans and Africans increasingly began to view each other as rivals and opponents as well as trading partners. It was against this background for example that in Morocco by 1511, Sufi opposition developed against that country’s Wattasid dynasty that rule from Fez largely as a result of its habit of making treaties and trading with Europeans. In 1525, this opposition was sufficiently strong that a Said dynasty managed to eject the Wattasides from Marrakesh. By 1541, Morocco Sadi dynasty was able to force the Portuguese from most of the ports that were occupying along the Atlantic coast of Morocco. As Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur greatly feared attack from several of his European neighbors as well as from Turkey, which had a presence in nearby Algiers and also felt threatened by European involvement along the Atlantic coast of western Africa south of the Sahara, he made the fateful decision in the late 16th century to order an attack intended to capture the Songhai Empire.”

In addition to Moulay Ahmad al-Mansur’s hope of gaining control of Songhais gold mines, he looked forward to controlling its most important cities namely Timbuktu and Gao. While a minority of the 4,000 troops that he sent on this mission were of Moorish and Moroccan background, its majority was composed of soldiers of various European ethnicities, including Maltese, Spaniards, Greeks, French, and English. In general, these European soldiers fell into the following categories, renegades, prisoners of war, European slaves in Africa, and mercenaries, and they were placed under the command of a Spaniard eunuch named Judar or Djouder, who the Moroccans had captured as an infant and converted to Islam.

Beginning with Judar Pasha, it was in this way that between 1591 and 1654, a number of Moroccan pashas of Timbuktu who were nominally subject to Marrakesh came to rule at Timbuktu alongside puppet Songhai Askias. At the latest, the death of Askia Nuh in 1597 effectively brought to an end to an independent Songhai Empire. In addition to transforming Songhai’s leaders into mere pashas of Morocco, the subjugation of Songhai provided a cover for the relocation of multitudes of its citizens from Songhai to Morocco, where during a long period many of them were reduced to slaves. Though treated differently from these common slaves among their compatriots, many people belonging to Songhai’s considerable intelligentsia were forced to remain in Morocco for a time as prisoners or hostages.

Tuaregs took advantage of the fall of Songhai to expand their control over populations scattered from the Niger to Lake Chad.

Even while Morocco was intervening in Sudan, it began to feel the impact of European hostility toward Moors spilling into its own cities Beginning in 1609 and continuing for at least five years, for example, Moroccan cities received many former Muslims from Spain who, on being expelled from Europe, settled in such cities as Rabat and Sala or Sale. Motivating their expulsion from Spain was widespread suspicion on the part of many Spaniards that many Moriscos (i.e. Christian Moors) were clandestine adherents to Islam despite their having converted to Christianity under pressure.

In many of the larger cities of Maghreb during the 17th and 19th centuries, were between 10 and 20 percent of the populations consisted of slaves, that situation had no quantitative equal in Europe. Still, the activities of European pirates and slave traders in Europe and elsewhere were as barbarous as the various oppressive systems that were indigenous to Africa.

In 1628, or three years after the accession to the English throne of Charles I, Britain still hoped that Roe’s treaty might provide a solution to piracy between it and such ports of northwestern Africa as Algiers, Tunis, Tetuan, and Sale. In the 1630s and 1640s, a large proportion of the Corsair ships raiding the coast of England came from Sale, piloted through the English Channel by Irish or English captives. In 1631, Morat Rais, who was renegade working for the Arabs though he was of Dutch ancestry, raided the Irish town of Baltimore, and Africans from the city of Sale took 500 English captives in 1636 leading to a retaliatory English expedition on Sale under Captian William Rainsborough the following year…”

“Between 1712 and mid-century, the Arma descendants of mostly European troops that Morocco had sent south of the Sahara to overthrow the Songhai Empire had lost their grip on power in this area that Segou, by now a real empire, seized large areas previously taken by Morocco from Songhai, including the cities of Bamako, Jenne, and Timbuktu.”

Citing Africas Legacies Of Urbanization: Unfolding Saga of a Continent By Stefan Goodwin

The Spanish Conquest in America: and its Relation to the History of Slavery and to the Government of Colonies: Volume I

“As to the Canary islands “Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Moors, Genoese, Normans, Portuguese, and Spaniards of every province (Aragonese, Castilians, Galicians, Biscayans, Andalusians) have all made their appearance, in these islands.* The. Carthaginians are said to have discovered them and to have reserved them as an asylum in case of extreme danger to the state. Sertorius, the Roman general, who partook the fallen fortunes of Marius, is said to have meditated retreat to these “islands of the blessed,”…

“We learn that Prince Henry had conversed much with those who had made voyages in different parts of the world, and particularly with Moors from Fez and Morocco, so that he came to hear of the Azenegues, a people bordering on the country of the negroes of Jalof. Such was the scanty information of a positive kind which the prince had to guide his endeavors. Then there were the suggestions and the inducements which to a willing mind were to be found in the shrewd conjectures of learned men, the fables of chivalry, and, perhaps, in the confused records of forgotten knowledge once possessed by Arabic geographers. The story of Prester John, which had spread over Europe since the Crusades, was well known to the Portuguese prince. A mysterious voyage of a certain wandering saint, called Saint Brendan, was not without its influence upon an enthusiastic mind. Moreover, there were many sound motives urging the prince to maritime discovery, among which a desire to fathom the power of the Moors, a wish to find a new outlet for traffic, and a longing to spread the blessings of the faith, may be enumerated.”

“In the course of Prince Henry life he was three times in Africa, carrying on a war against the Moors; and at home, besides the care and trouble which the state of Portuguese court and government must have given him.”

“A contemporary chronicler AZURARA, whose work has recently been discovered and published, tells the story more simply, and merely states that these captains were young men, who after the ending of the Ceuta campaign, were as eager for employment as the prince for discovery, and that they were ordered on a voyage having for its object the general molestation of the Moors, as well as that of making discoveries beyond Cape Name.”

“In 1442, the Moors whom Antonio Goncalvez had captured in the previous year promised to give black slaves in ransom for themselves, if he would take them back to their own country; and the prince, approving of this, ordered Goncalvez to set sail immediately, “insisting as the foundation of the matter than if Goncalvez should not be able to obtain so many negroes (as had been mentioned) in exchange for the three Moors, yet that he should take them; for, whatever number he should get, he would gain souls, because they (the negroes) might be converted to the faith, which could not be managed with the Moors. Goncalves obtained ten black slaves, some gold dust, a target of buffalo hide, and some ostriches’ eggs, in exchange for two of the Moors, and, returning with his cargo, excited general wonderment on account of the color of the slaves. These, then, we may presume, were the first black slaves that made their appearance in the Penninsula since the extinction of the old slavery.” * BARROS does not say of what race these slaves were, but merely calls them” almas.” Faria v Sousa gives them the name of”Moors,” a very elastic word. I imagine that they were Azenegues.”

“In 1444, a company was formed at Lagos, who received permission from the prince to undertake discovery along the coast of Africa, paying him a certain portion of any gains which they might make. This has been considered as a company founded for carrying on the slave-trade. The expedition accomplished, successfully attacking the inhabitants of the islands Nar and Tider, and to bring back about two hundred slaves. Prince Henry awarded Lancarote large honors for this and received his own fifth of the slaves. We have an account from an eye-witness of the partition of the slaves brought back by Lancarote, which, as it is the first transaction of the kind on record, is worthy of notice, more especially as it may enable the reader to understand the motives of the prince, and of other men of those times. “
“From Ca da Mosta the reader at once learns the state of things with regard to the slave-trade. The Portuguese factory at Arguim was the headquarters of the trade. Thither came all kinds of merchandise, and gold and slaves were taken back in return. The “Arabs” of that district (Moors the Portuguese would have called them) were the middlemen in this affair. They took their Barbary horses to the negro country, and “there bartered with the great men for slaves,” getting from ten to eighteen slaves for each horse. They also brought silks of Granada and Tunis, and silver, in exchange for which they received slaves and gold. These Arabs, or Moors, had a place of trade of their own, called Hoden, behind Cape Blanco. There the slaves were brought, “from whence, Ca da Mosto says, they are sent to the mountains of Barka, and from thence to Sicily, part of them are also brought to Tunis, and along the coast of Barbary, and the rest to Argin, and sold to the licensed Portuguese. Every year between seven and eight hundred slaves are sent from Argin to Portugal. Before this trade was settled,” says Ca da Mosto, “the Portuguese used to seize upon the Moors themselves (as appears occasionally from the evidence that has before referred to), and also the Azengues who live father toward the south; but now peace is restored to all, and the Infante suffers no farther damage to be done to those people. He is in hopes that by conversing with Christians, they may easily be brought over to the Romish faith, as they are not, as yet, well established in that of Mohammed, of which they know nothing but hearsay.”