Oral History Interview with Imam Abdullah Bey El-Amin on July 25, 2020


Oral History Interview with Imam Abdullah Bey El-Amin on July 25, 2020



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El-Amin, Imam Abdullah Bey


Cook, Samayyah; Perkins, Dr. Alisa (Research Director)


Oral history interview with Imam Abdullah Bey El-Amin conducted by Samayyah Cook on July 25, 2020. Interview written by Dr. Alisa Perkins (Research Director) and Samayyah Cook. Imam Abdullah Bey El-Amin was born in Little Rock, Arkansas on October 31, 1944. When Imam El-Amin was a child, he arrived in Detroit via train with his family as part of the Great Migration. Imam El-Amin was raised in Detroit as a Christian. He converted to Islam in 1976 and joined the Masjid Wali Muhammad community under the leadership of Imam Warith Deen Mohammed. Imam El-Amin has played multiple leadership roles in Detroit in both political and religious arenas. Between 1994 and 2001, he served as Neighborhood City Hall Manager under Mayor Dennis Archer, working on community connections and development. In 2009, Imam El-Amin ran for City Council, and his campaign successfully raised the visibility of the Muslim community in Detroit. Along with his late wife, Dr. Cheryl El-Amin, he is one of the Muslim Center Mosque and Community Center founders. Imam El-Amin forged relationships with leaders of different faiths across Detroit both as a longtime imam of the Muslim Center and as the first director of the Council of Islamic Associations of Michigan, now known as the Michigan Muslim Community Council. In the interview, Imam El-Amin discusses how he has contributed to building the Muslim Center from the ground up. He reflects on how he and other pioneers founded the Muslim Center to cultivate interfaith and intra-faith relationships and encourage mosque-based community outreach and activism. Now, as Imam Emeritus of the Muslim Center, Imam El-Amin explores the importance of continuing to develop the Muslim Center into an attractive space for individuals across the generations through expanding youth programming, sports and recreation, and the Jazz Cafe.

Date of Interview


Location of Interview

Detroit, MI (Interview conducted over Zoom)


Activism, African-American history, African-American Muslims, Shaykh Ali Sulieman Ali, Angel’s Night, Mayor Dennis Archer, Arkansas, Ashura Board, Basketball, Bell Isle, Brotherhood, Shaykh Momodou Ceesay, Central High School, Christianity, City Council, City Hall manager, City politics, Cobo Hall, Community activism, Community leadership, Community problem solving, Conversion to Islam, Council of Islamic Associations of Michigan, Count Basie, Custer Elementary School, Detroit, ‘Detroit Free Press’, Devil’s Night, Eid al-Adha, Eid al-Fitr, Dr. Cheryl El-Amin, Idriss El-Amin, Maurice El-Amin, Zarinah El-Amin, Minister Louis Farrakhan, First Resurrection, Gambia, Great Migration, Historic Masjid Wali Muhammad, Imam Emeritus, Interfaith relations, Islam, Islam in America, Islamic Institute of Knowledge, Jazz music, Linwood Street, Little Rock, Louisiana, Marriage, Marriage in Islam, Michigan, Michigan Muslim Community Council, Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, Morality, Mosque governing board, Mosque Gymnasium, Mosque maintenance, Muhammad Mel Wanzo Jazz Cafe, Elijah Muhammad, Mujaddid, Muslim Americas, Muslim Center expansion, Muslim Center Mosque and Community Center, Muslims, Nation of Islam, Neighborhood cleanup, Neighborhood revitalization, New Africa, Moussa Niang, Nursing, Outreach ministry, Plymouth Congregational Church, Post Junior High School, Prophet Muhammad, Ben Pruitt, Ramadan, Religious Counseling, Religious leadership, Reversion to Islam, Rose Point, Shi’a Islam, Shreveport, Southeastern High School, Sunni Islam, Tennis courts, United the ummah, Carolyn Wanzo, Mel Wanzo, West Africa, Catherine Ziyad


African American Studies | Africana Studies | American Studies | Civic and Community Engagement | Digital Humanities | Inequality and Stratification | Islamic Studies | Nonprofit Administration and Management | Politics and Social Change | Race and Ethnicity | Religion | Urban Studies and Planning


Interview conducted online over Zoom by Samayyah Cook. Written by Dr. Alisa Perkins (Research Director) and Samayyah Cook. Facilitated by Dr. Alisa Perkins and Ismaeel Dhul-Quarnayn. Video Edited by: Brooklynne Bates. Transcribed by: Lori Diehl and Dr. Alisa Perkins. Transcription edited by: Dr. Alisa Perkins. Metadata by: Sophia Wimberley. Metadata edited by Dr. Alisa Perkins.



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Rights Statement

Dream of Detroit Interviews were made possible by funding from the Pillars Grant and Whiting Foundation. Content is for educational purposes only and non-reproducible; interviews are not to be duplicated, but may be linked through ScholarWorks with appropriate attribution. Please direct any questions about copyright to scholarworks@wmich.edu.


Pillars Fund and Whiting Foundation


Dream of Detroit

Length of Video


Oral History Interview with Imam Abdullah Bey El-Amin on July 25, 2020