The Princess and the Prophet: The Secret History of Magic, Race, and Moorish Muslims in America

Beacon. Mar. 2020. 304p. ISBN 9780807067260. $28.95. REL
Dorman (history & core humanities, Univ. of Nevada, Reno; Chosen People) explores the roots of Moorish Science Temple of America (MSTA), along the way questioning the conventional trajectory of Gilded Age influences. After outlining temple founder Walter Brister’s early life, Dorman details how Brister adopted the name Noble Drew Ali and established the MSTA in the early 20th century. The narrative follows the fortunes and misfortunes of Ali and his wife, Princess Sotanki, as they set the standards for American-Muslim culture. Along the way, the couple continued to leverage Chicago’s political machine to wield wealth and power, leaving a long-standing influence on Chicago politics. Dorman suggests that African American notions of Islam were not directly inherited from enslaved people of Muslim descent as often assumed, but were a result of American ideas of the so-called Orient as well as African American culture of the early 20th century. The final chapter touches on Ali’s legacy as it pertains to both MSTA and the Nation of Islam.
VERDICT A captivating reinterpretation of Muslim-American heritage. Spanning religion, history, and sociology, this will appeal to readers across these subjects.
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