The Fire Next Time

Elijah Muhammad Character Analysis

The leader of the Nation of Islam, a religious black separatist group. Although Baldwin disagrees with Elijah’s belief that all whites are “devils” and that the future of the world includes only black people, he understands the impulse and logic driving Elijah’s beliefs. He is even impressed by Elijah’s ability to bring black people together and to, in a sense, save them from the horrors and traps of abject poverty and oppression. Baldwin, though sympathetic to Elijah’s outlook, is unable to see eye-to-eye with the Nation of Islam because of its commitment to religion and its general “us versus them” perspective. Still, he depicts Elijah as a kind, intelligent man with a face that indicates pain and reminds Baldwin of his father.

Elijah Muhammad Quotes in The Fire Next Time

The The Fire Next Time quotes below are all either spoken by Elijah Muhammad or refer to Elijah Muhammad. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Authority and Oppression Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The Fire Next Time published in 1992.
Down At The Cross Quotes

It is only “the so-called American Negro” who remains trapped, disinherited, and despised, in a nation that has kept him in bondage for nearly four hundred years and is still unable to recognize him as a human being. And the Black Muslims, along with many people who are not Muslims, no longer wish for a recognition so grudging and (should it ever be achieved) so tardy. Again, it cannot be denied that this point of view is abundantly justified by American Negro history. It is galling indeed to have stood so long, hat in hand, waiting for Americans to grow up enough to realize that you do not threaten them.

Related Characters: James Baldwin (speaker), Elijah Muhammad
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other The Fire Next Time quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!

It was very strange to stand with Elijah for those few moments, facing those vivid, violent, so problematical streets. I felt very close to him, and really wished to be able to love and honor him as a witness, an ally, and a father. I felt that I knew something of his pain and his fury, and, yes, even his beauty. Yet precisely because of the reality and the nature of those streets—because of what he conceived as his responsibility and what I took to be mine—we would always be strangers, and possibly, one day, enemies.

Related Characters: James Baldwin (speaker), Elijah Muhammad
Page Number: 78
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.LoreLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqu

Get the entire The Fire Next Time LitChart as a printable PDF.
The fire next time.pdf.medium

Elijah Muhammad Character Timeline in The Fire Next Time

The timeline below shows where the character Elijah Muhammad appears in The Fire Next Time. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Down At The Cross
Authority and Oppression Theme Icon
History and Religion Theme Icon
Fear Theme Icon
...group: the Nation of Islam. He writes that he had heard much about its leader, Elijah Muhammad, but had never paid the movement very much attention because he found its message... (full context)
History and Religion Theme Icon
...whose end is near. According to their doctrine, this information had been passed down to Elijah Muhammad by Allah, who told him that white power would end in ten to fifteen... (full context)
Authority and Oppression Theme Icon
History and Religion Theme Icon
...thinking. After all, he remarks, the theology was not new, nor was the sentiment. Nonetheless, Elijah somehow succeeded in bringing people together in a way that the Christian church was unable... (full context)
Authority and Oppression Theme Icon
Fear Theme Icon
Arriving at Elijah Muhammad’s mansion—which doubled as the movement’s headquarters—Baldwin felt nervous. He was late, he was unsure... (full context)
Authority and Oppression Theme Icon
History and Religion Theme Icon
Fear Theme Icon
...him with respect, which he read as an indication that they expected something from him. Elijah was not in the room, and when he finally appeared, Baldwin noted the joy that... (full context)
History and Religion Theme Icon
The dinner was filled with talk about power and about the “white devils.” Elijah told Baldwin that the reason Baldwin didn’t think all white people were devils was because... (full context)
Authority and Oppression Theme Icon
History and Religion Theme Icon
While having dinner with Elijah and his disciples, Baldwin found himself telling Elijah that he gave up religion for a... (full context)
Authority and Oppression Theme Icon
History and Religion Theme Icon
At one point, Elijah made the claim that no set of people were ever fully respected without having possessed... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Leaving Elijah’s mansion, Baldwin felt as though he had failed some sort of test. Standing outside with... (full context)