Skip to main content

Between Exodus and Egypt: Malcolm X, Islam, and the natural religion of the oppressed

Buy Article:

$10.35 plus tax (Refund Policy)


Malcolm X's life and career offers a window through which to analyze the interactions between race and religion in the post-slavery experience of African Americans. This essay traces the trajectory of Malcolm's two religious conversions, and his evolving sense that Christianity is the backbone of white supremacy and western imperialism, where Islam is the natural religion of the oppressed. This journey, I suggest, features the eclipse of the Exodus motif that has been so central to much black religiosity since slavery to make way for the centralization of the Egypt metaphor; thus identifications with Jews are displaced by associations with black and Muslim diasporas. However, exploration of this movement from Exodus to Egypt illuminates not a smooth transition but rather a complex and ongoing interaction between the two motifs, interactions that question the notion that any singular religious identity offers an authentic experience for oppressed peoples. I suggest that Malcolm X's negotiation between what emerge as the competing modalities of race, religion and nation offer an insight into those forces that shape expressions of black religion today.

Keywords: Christianity; Islam; Malcolm X; race; religion; slavery

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Birmingham.

Publication date: 2008-10-16

More about this publication?
  • The European Journal of American Culture (EJAC) is an academic, refereed journal for scholars, academics and students from many disciplines with a common involvement in the interdisciplinary study of America and American culture, drawing on a variety of approaches and encompassing the whole evolution of the country.
  • Editorial Board
  • Information for Authors
  • Subscribe to this Title
  • Ingenta Connect is not responsible for the content or availability of external websites
  • Access Key
  • Free ContentFree content
  • Partial Free ContentPartial Free content
  • New ContentNew content
  • Open Access ContentOpen access content
  • Partial Open Access ContentPartial Open access content
  • Subscribed ContentSubscribed content
  • Partial Subscribed ContentPartial Subscribed content
  • Free Trial ContentFree trial content
Cookie Policy
Cookie Policy
Ingenta Connect website makes use of cookies so as to keep track of data that you have filled in. I am Happy with this Find out more