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Clarence Edward Smith (February 22, 1928 - June 13, 1969), better known as Clarence 13X and Allah, was an American religious leader and the founder of the five percent nation. Born in Virginia, he moved to New York City as a young man before serving in the United States Army during the Korean War. Upon his return to New York, he learned that his wife had joined and followed the Nation of Islam (NOI) under the name Clarence 13X. He served in the group as a security guard, martial arts instructor, and student minister before leaving in 1963 for an unclear reason. He enjoyed gambling, which was condemned by the NOI, and contradicted the NOI's teachings that Wallace Fard Muhammad was a divine messenger.

After leaving the NOI, Clarence 13X formed a new group with other former members. He concluded that all black men were divine and took the name Allah to symbolize this status. He rejected belief in an invisible God and taught that God could be found in every black man. In his view, women were "earths" who complemented and cared for men; he believed that they should be subservient to men. He and a few assistants kept some NOI teachings and pioneered novel interpretations of them. They devised teachings on the meanings of letters and numbers: understanding the meanings of each letter and number was said to provide profound truths about God and the universe. Clarence 13X referred to its new movement as a five Percent and was referring to a NOI teaching that only five percent of the population knew and promoted the truth about God. One way he differentiated his group from his earlier beliefs was to disapprove of dress codes or strict behavioral guidelines; he allowed the use of alcohol and sometimes the use of illegal drugs.

Clarence 13X was shot dead by an unknown assailant in 1964 but survived the attack. After an incident a few months later in which he and several of his supporters slandered stores and fought with the police, he was arrested and placed in psychiatric custody. He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. He referred to himself as "Allah" which had become his preferred name. He was released after a 1966 Supreme Court ruling placed limits on detention without trial. Although he initially taught his followers to hate white people, he eventually began working with white city guides. They gave him money for a night school and in return he tried to prevent violence in Harlem. Clarence 13X was fatally shot in June 1969; the identity of his killer is unknown. The Mayor of New York City and several other prominent leaders expressed condolences to his supporters. Although the five percent declined in the immediate aftermath of his death, the movement resumed after a new leadership was formed. The group took a non-hierarchical approach to leadership, and not a single leader replaced Clarence 13X. He was held in high esteem by five percent who celebrate his birthday as a holiday.

Early life and nation of Islam

Clarence Edward Smith was born on February 22, 1928 with his five brothers and one sister in Danville, Virginia. During his childhood, Virginia was racially segregated and witnessed incidents of racism, including a fight between his father and a white man, sparked by racial tension. In 1946 he moved to New York with his mother, where they settled in Harlem. He only attended two years of high school.

In 1949 Smith fathered a child, Clarence Jowers, with Willieen Jowers. Although he married a woman named Dora Smith in 1950, he fathered another child, Otis Jowers, with Willieen in 1951; he also had several sons and daughters with Dora. Smith joined the US Army in the early 1950s and was stationed in Korea from 1952 to 1954, where he served as an infantryman in the Korean War. After his return to the USA he lived in Harlem and served in the reserves of the United States Army until 1960. During his military service he was sent in karats. Dora Smith hugged the Nation of Islam (NOI) while her husband was away and he converted upon returning to New York. By 1961 he had registered at Mosque No. 7 and changed his name to Clarence 13X in accordance with NOI practice. Prior to his conversion, he often smoked marijuana and played games, activities banned by the NOI. After joining the group, he studied the NOI's doctrines and made rapid progress within its organizational structure, possibly thanks to skills learned in the military. His duties included teaching martial arts and serving on the Fruit of Islam security team. He was also recognized as a seasoned public speaker and rose to the rank of "student minister" at Mosque No. 7. In 1963 he became aware of the FBI. Informers showed his presence at rallies led by Malcolm X.

The early 1960s was a turbulent period for the NOI; Troubles were caused by conflict between leaders Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X. Around this time, Clarence 13X was disenchanted with the organization, although the root of its qualms is unknown. NOI members have offered conflicting reports on the events that caused his exit and whether he left voluntarily. His departure has been variously attributed to doubts about the theology of the NOI, violations of its moral code, objections to the luxurious lifestyles of its top leadership, or Malcolm X's distrust of him. Dora Smith chose to stay with the group, which causes the couple to split up. Before leaving the NOI, Clarence 13X had begun to doubt their teaching that Wallace Fard Muhammad was a divine messenger. He believed that the NOI's teachings were inconsistent because they taught that God is black, but encouraged reverence for Fard Muhammad, who was not entirely of African descent. Clarence 13X concluded that divinity was found in all black men, rather than in a single person. Several times before he left the NOI, he was censored by the leadership for making these claims. His friend John 37X chose to leave with him. Malcolm X also left the NOI in 1963 and stayed on good terms with Clarence 13X. Clarence 13X did not join Malcolm X's newly formed group, Muslim Mosque, Inc.

The foundation of the five percent

After Clarence 13X and John 37X left the NOI, they continued learning the group's teachings, sometimes while smoking marijuana. They took on new names: Clarence 13X took Allah and John 37X, Abu Shahid. After reading a NOI book of 34 puzzles known as Lost-Found Lessons, John 37X concluded that numbers represented specific concepts such as knowledge or wisdom. He called this system "living mathematics". During its development, he was jailed on firearms charges. While John 37X was in prison, Clarence 13X taught a system of beliefs which he called "supreme wisdom" which he saw as the core of Islam to groups of young men. It was developed by his friend James Howard, with whom he developed a modified version of living mathematics, "supreme mathematics", and an accompanying teaching on letters, the "supreme alphabet". The development of these systems, which followers consider "divine science", may have been influenced by the teachings of Sufism; like some schools of Sufism, they found esoteric meanings in the alphabet. David Smydra from The Boston Globe compare these teachings with Kabbalah; Felicia Miyakawa from theMiddle Tennessee State University sees similarities with Gnosticism and Kemetism.

Clarence 13X developed novel doctrines that add backgrounds to familiar words. He explained that the letters of the word "Allah" stood for "arm, leg, leg, arm, head" and meant the human body. This was supposed to prove that humanity had a divine nature. He named parts of the New York area after places in the Middle East that are important to Islam: Harlem was called Mecca, and Brooklyn, Medina. Other disadvantaged NOI members, including some serving the fruit of Islam, were soon drawn to its burgeoning group. Several people from the NOI who were unwilling to choose between loyalty to Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X also joined; Clarence 13X has taught aspects of theology from the feud leaders. In the early years the group attended some five percent NOI events, and Clarence 13X theology had much in common with the teachings of the NOI, although there were notable differences. He taught his followers that he was an incarnation of God, and they were all gods. His followers were therefore encouraged to look within themselves in their search for God. Clarence 13X taught that there was an inherent greatness in those of African ancestry not found in Europeans and their descendants, echoing statements by Elijah Muhammad. He did not enforce the NOI's strict moral rules: one way the group appealed to potential conversions was to allow many of the practices condemned by the NOI, including gambling, alcohol use, and drug use. Clarence 13X told its followers not to develop addictions, but drug use was not inherently wrong. He strictly prohibited the consumption of pork, arguing that pigs are similar to animals that are not eaten in the United States, such as rats and dogs, and should therefore not be consumed. Because of their belief that black men are gods, the group allowed their members to make choices about clothing and most aspects of diet.

Early members of the group often proselytized on the street corners for hours, and Clarence 13X assistants conducted classes on the group's teachings, strictly enforcing study habits. He directed his followers to memorize his teachings on the meanings of numbers and letters. Once they did, they were told to gain an understanding of deep truths. These lessons were taught in a form that resembled catechisms. Instead of holding services in mosques, they gathered for monthly sessions called parliaments, which were often held outdoors. Participants were given extensive freedom to speak in a system that Ted Juergens of the University of Arkansas compared to Quaker meetings.

Clarence 13X Group was originally known as the "Suns of Almighty God Allah" or the "Blood Brothers". After Malcolm X's death, the group came to be known as the "Five Percent" or "Five Percent Nation". The name was drawn from the NOI's claim to be the five percent of the black community who knew and promoted the truth about God; Clarence 13X viewed his movement as the five percent of the NOIs still holding onto truth and integrity. The other 95 percent are said to be ignorant of the truth or be corrupt. Clarence 13X assembled an inner circle of assistants, nine of whom are referred to by Five Percentage as the "Firstborn": they are meant to embody its attributes. The assistants were tasked with spreading the group's teachings to younger people, many of whom took African names, including some from non-Islamic societies. Clarence 13X taught afrocentrism to his disciples and often wore dashiki; male five percent members often wore excruciating kufis, and female members wore brightly colored African head wraps. A few five percent supported themselves through drug deals and petty theft; others deliberately committed minor violations of the law in hopes of proselytizing themselves for others who had been arrested.

Clarence 13X followers saw him as a divine messenger and referred to him as "Father Allah". This elevated him to a higher position than Elijah Muhammad, who considered himself "Messenger of Allah". Eventually, Clarence 13X stopped identifying as a Muslim and spoke out against the awe of Fard Muhammad by casting him as a "mystery god". He rejected the idea that God was invisible to what he felt as weakened people. He encouraged his followers to learn about and respect other spiritual traditions.

Although female converts were initially referred to as "nurses", Clarence 13X renamed them "earths" in 1967. He taught that women were not gods because he believed that they were created by man and that they had no creative power. In his view, women could feed, but only men could have children. Women should resemble the earth in their ability to sustain life. Clarence 13X had a patriarchal philosophy, and the five percent were overwhelmingly male at first. He advocated fathers arranging their daughters' marriages and urged women to embody submission by serving their husbands as God. Polygamy or serial monogamy were allowed and legal marriage was discouraged. Clarence 13X encouraged its followers to have many children and discouraged the use of birth control.

Contradiction

NOI leaders were furious that Clarence 13X freely taught portions of their doctrine that they only revealed to dedicated members; although one of their captains repeatedly asked him to stop, he refused. Clarence 13X also experienced conflict in his family: his children did not adore him, and hostility quickly developed between Kern Five Percent and some of his sons when Willeen Jowers brought them to visit him.

On December 9, 1964, Clarence 13X was shot twice in the upper body while at a popular hangout in the basement of a Harlem apartment building. He was taken to Harlem Hospital for treatment and discharge. He later claimed that he died and returned to his body a short time later. In a 2007 study by the Five Percent Movement, American journalist Michael Muhammad Knight speculated that this led his followers to see him as a figure of Christ. The Sagittarius identity and motivation are unknown; Knight notes that law enforcement and rival Muslim groups both had a motive in attacking Clarence 13X. Clarence 13X's companions reported that he had instructed her not to seek revenge on the Sagittarius and to give up violence. While recovering from his wounds, Clarence 13X tried to distinguish his movement from other Islamic movements by giving up Arabic greetings for English expressions.

The five percent soon caught the attention of the media and law enforcement agencies. Local newspapers published negative coverage of the group, calling it a violent hate group or a street gang. The New York Amsterdam News reported Clarence 13X threatened to kill white children if its group did not receive government subsidies. In 1965, the FBI opened an investigation into his group and released possibly sensationalized rumors to the press. That year, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover viewed Clarence 13X as "Harlem rowdy" and feared he would forge links with more dangerous groups. The FBI developed a detailed file on Clarence 13X; In 1967, Hoover described him as a potential threat to President Lyndon B. Johnson and sent a detailed folder on him to the United States Secret Service.

arrest

After the death of Malcolm X. in 1965, Clarence 13X mourned his loss but did not attend his funeral. In May 1965, while they were closing the site of Mosque No. 7, Clarence 13X and several of his companions were ordered to leave by a police officer. They went, began vandalizing nearby buildings, and blocked the road near the former headquarters of the Muslim Mosque, Inc. More police officers arrived and after a manipulation suppressed Clarence 13X and took him and several of his supporters into custody. After his arrest, he refused to identify himself and was charged with assault and drug possession. About 60 of his supporters took part in his arrangement but were removed from the court after shouting "peace". Clarence 13X proclaimed its innocence and announced its intention to defend itself in court. He told the judge that he was Allah and that the city would face severe judgment if he were not released. The judge disregarded his forecast and set his bail at $ 9,500. At a court hearing in June, about 50 five percent protested in front of the court; thereafter several were arrested on charges of making Molotov cocktails. In July, the court sent Clarence 13X to the Bellevue Hospital Center for a psychiatric evaluation.In the hospital, he made some disciples and communicated with some followers through a hospital window. Under his direction, Five Percent resisted attempts by future NOI leader Louis Farrakhan to convert them.

Knight says that Clarence 13X psychiatric outcomes haven't been processed for an unusually long time; he depicts the delay was due to FBI involvement and argues that Clarence 13X was a political prisoner. In November 1965, Clarence 13X was found incompetent to stand up to trial and enlisted in the New York State Department of Mental Hygiene, which placed him at Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Mad. After declaring himself to be Allah and a "Master Gambler" the doctors concluded that he had a schizophrenic reaction, paranoid kind with megalomania; he was faced with indefinite commitment. Many five percent and their converts traveled to the hospital to meet with him and receive instructions. He also proselytized into inmates and converted a young white man who later became a committed successor.

While Clarence 13X was in jail, the five percent continued to proselytize and teach their teachings. He directed his followers to adopt names different from those in the NOI in order to differentiate their group. After achieving a certain knowledge of the group's doctrines, the members were allowed to take the surname "Allah" and sometimes "God" as their first name. This was in recognition of the teachings of Clarence 13X that black people were gods and that each member should worship themselves. His followers often adopted the name Allah but refrained from referring to himself as such in his presence, in dislike of his authority. After a decision (Godfather of Robinson) The United States Supreme Court in 1966 placed limits on the incarceration of mentally ill criminals, which resulted in the release of many. Clarence 13X was therefore released in March 1967.

Cooperation and conflict

In mid-1967, New York Mayor John Lindsay tried to forge closer ties with leaders of impoverished neighborhoods. In part due to concerns from the New York Police Department (NYPD), the Mayor dispatched one of his aides, Barry Gottehrer, to meet with Clarence 13X. Clarence 13X then attended a black leader meeting at Gracie Mansion, the mayor's official residence. The city made buses available for five percent to travel to a Long Island Park, and with help from the National Urban League, got an abandoned storefront for use as a school. It became known as the Allah School in Mecca and aimed to prepare young people for college preparatory schools. Tensions soon developed between the five percent and the school overseers; Clarence 13X wanted more control over the curriculum and was struggling to find qualified teachers. The police visited the school regularly to make sure the students were not radicalized. 1975 Gottehrer chronicled his friendship with Clarence 13X in The Mayor's Man. The book was well received by a few five percent who republished parts of it after it was out of print. They did not reprint the entire book because of a passage in which Gottehrer reports that Clarence 13X offered to allow him to sleep with his teenage daughter.

In February 1968, Lindsay estimated that it was about 500 to 700 five percent. Some of the followers of Clarence 13X tried to create breakaway groups by proclaiming prophets themselves and starting their own movements. As a rule, they kept aspects of the Five Percenter teaching with different focuses.

After the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in April 1968, Lindsay feared a riot would break out in Harlem. He went to the neighborhood to offer condolences; Clarence 13X and his followers were among those who accompanied him as he walked the streets. Clarence 13X also directed its supporters to prevent violence and looting. He was praised by the city's leadership for his efforts, and they subsequently agreed to help him publish a book containing five perceptual teachings and parts of the Qur'an. Willieen Jowers recalled that Clarence 13X admitted that his previous teachings on racial hatred were wrong around this time. He later described himself as "neither anti-white nor pro-black" and saw some of his white contacts with the city as allies in advancing his teachings. His white convert was released from state custody and joined his teacher in Harlem during February 1969 'Easter. It was accepted as a Five Percenter because Clarence 13X claimed that "civilization" was valued by the group rather than race. Clarence 13X made potentially conflicting statements about whether white individuals could be reformed. Contrary to his radical reputation, he advocated some conservative positions in the late 1960s, including the death penalty, respect for the US flag, and American involvement in Vietnam. He also allowed his supporters to attend Christmas parties. Knight notes that these postponements may be intended to reduce suspicion from law enforcement. Clarence 13X was then allowed to visit a juvenile prison to speak to young five percenters and won some concessions from the institution's administration. Some secular black leaders disliked him because of his supportive comments about the mayor and neglect of revolutionary rhetoric. At one point he was invited to reach out to an audience of black Marxists and then speak to them about numerology.

Around 1968, Clarence 13X fathered a son with a young convert named Gusavia. That year Gloria Steinem published an article about Clarence 13X in new Yorker Magazine. She blamed the NOI for the previous attempt to kill him, arguing that they were angry with his claim to be Allah and thus Elijah Muhammad. Clarence 13X also received coverage from international media, including a Canadian television program.

death

In 1969, Clarence 13X slept little. He feared he would be killed and instructed his followers to stay strong when he died. On June 12, he spent time with several of his students at their school. He left school on June 13 between 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m. and then played for an hour or two. Like his occasional practice, he traveled to Dora Smith's house to rest. He was ambushed by three assassins who fatally shot him while he was in the lobby of their apartment building. Several people from the mayor's office met with his family that morning, and the mayor later attended the five percent school to offer condolences.

Clarence 13X funeral took place four days after his death. It was visited by about 400 people and was followed by a procession through Harlem. His death challenged the leadership of his movement and there was no clear successor. At the time, its followers were primarily teenagers, and some of its top leaders subsequently struggled with drug addiction.

Most local media sources gave Clarence 13X positive coverage in the aftermath of his death. The Daily News linked his assassination to the recent death of NOI activist Charles Kenyatta and tossed her out as part of a "Muslim war". The mayor believed the NYPD told them so and was upset by their allegation. Louis Farrakhan denied guilty responsibility, claiming that he was on good terms with Clarence 13X. NYPD investigators suspected he was killed by members of an extortion ring, possibly linked to the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. In August 1969 there was an arrest in connection with his murder. The suspect denied involvement and the charges were soon dropped. Five percent found various culprits, including the CIA, the NOI, or a disgruntled supporter.

Legacy and Reception

Five Percenter membership fell after Clarence 13X's death, but again in 1970 after new leadership emerged and revitalized the group. After his death, the group was not dominated by a single leader. This may have been a result of their teaching that all black people are gods, which made authoritarian leadership untenable.

Knight doubts Clarence 13X wanted to build a movement or culture, but after his death the movement expanded and gained converts in the United States. Five percent have celebrated Clarence's 13th birthday as a holiday, and minimized the descriptions of its shortcomings in their accounts of his life. Numerous apocryphal stories from his life circulated among the group; some reports have claimed that he was only playing as a means to reach others with his teachings. He left no record of his teachings, and the group had few formalized principles at the time of his death. In the decades that followed, the group's teaching became more complicated.

Akbar Muhammad of the NOI described Clarence 13X as "confused", although relationships between the Five Percent and NOI leaders have improved over time. Clarence 13X teachings may have influenced the teachings of Dwight York, founder of the Nuwaubian Nation. York looked at Clarence 13X. Teach an inadequate, incomplete way.

Attorney Sidney Davidoff, one of Lindsay's assistants, considered Clarence 13X "a little snake oil salesman and a little crazy, but no more unstable than anyone else preaching a gospel on the street corner". Davidoff saw Clarence 13X's black supremacist teachings as a way to instill confidence in young people. Knight states that Clarence 13X went from being a "Harlem rowdy" to a legitimate community leader, "and Lindsay later found Clarence 13X's role in the city to be similar to that of Al Sharpton's. Mattias Gardell of Uppsala University regards Clarence 13X as a" gifted philosopher ".

See also

  • List of unsolved murders

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