Oral History Interview with Eric Sabree on July 19, 2020


Oral History Interview with Eric Sabree on July 19, 2020



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Sabree, Eric


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


Oral history interview with Eric Sabree, conducted by Samayyah Cook on July 19, 2020, with addendum conducted by Dr. Alisa Perkins on July 19, 2020. Interview written by Dr. Alisa Perkins (Research Director) and Samayyah Cook. Eric Sabree was born in Chicago on June 14, 1954, and moved to Detroit with his family while still an infant. He was raised as a Christian, attending Catholic Central High School while also enrolled in night classes at Cass Technical High School. In 1977, Sabree graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in Building Construction Management. With this background, Sabree was employed for twenty years as an Inspector Supervisor for the City of Detroit. Wishing to change his career focus to public service, Sabree again enrolled at MSU, this time to pursue a law degree. Following his graduation in 1996, Sabree worked as an attorney and then as a deputy in the Wayne County Treasurer’s office. Sabree was later appointed and then elected as the Wayne County Treasurer and has served in this capacity since 2016. Sabree reverted to Islam soon after graduating from high school and became an active member of Historic Masjid Wali Muhammad, using his skills in construction and plumbing to assist with mosque repairs. In the 1980s, Sabree and his wife were among the founding members of the Muslim Center Mosque and Community Center. Sabree was actively involved in prison ministry for twenty-seven years, teaching inmates about Islam and offered them counseling about self-improvement. In the interview, Sabree outlines the Detroit Muslim community’s long history with prison activism. He discusses the current need for reform so that more city and community resources are directed to reducing recidivism rates and supporting returning citizens. In the interview, Sabree also reflects on the important role that the Muslim Center played for himself and his wife Badriyyah in raising their children, commenting on the importance of mosque-based social and community interactions in allowing believers to deepen their faith.

Date of Interview


Location of Interview

Detroit, MI (Interview conducted over Zoom)


African-American history, African-American Muslims, Shaykh Ali Suleiman Ali, Arabic language education, Arkansas, Baptist Christianity, Cass Technical High School, Catechism, Catholic Central High School, Catholic church, Catholic school, Chicago, Community building, Construction management, Conversion to Islam, COVID-19 pandemic, Detroit, Detroit College of Law, ‘Detroit Free Press', Do for self, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, Fatherhood, Fourth Sunday Conference Call, Hajj, Historic Masjid Wali Muhammad (HMWM), Housing foreclosure, Illinois, Intergenerational relations, Islam, Islam in America, Islam in prisons, Jackson, Jerusalem, Kansas, Louisiana, Malcolm X, marriage, Mathematician, Mecca, Medina, Michigan, Michigan State University (MSU), Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, Muslim Americans, Muslim Center Mosque and Community Center, Muslim chaplain, Muslims, Nation of Islam (NOI), National Football League (NFL), Neighborhood revitalization, President Richard M. Nixon, Non-profit housing renovation, Ohio State University, Pilgrimage, Plumbing, Prison ministry work, Prison reform, Prison Service Committee, Qur'an, Ramadan, Reversion to Islam, Badriyyah Sabree, Saudi Arabia, Self-improvement, Self-discipline, Dr. Abdulalim Abdullah Shabazz, Judge Adam Shakoor, Skilled trades, Sweden, ‘The Autobiography of Malcolm X', Treasurer's office, Umrah, Wayne County Treasurer, Weightlifting, Wichita


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 | Prison Education and Reentry | Race and Ethnicity | Religion | Urban Studies and Planning


Interview conducted online over Zoom by Samayyah Cook with addendum conducted by Dr. Alisa Perkins. Written by Dr. Alisa Perkins (Research Director) and Samayyah Cook. Facilitated by Dr. Alisa Perkins. Video Edited by: Jayden Sibley. Transcribed by: Zarin Farook and Dr. Alisa Perkins. Transcription edited by: Dr. Alisa Perkins. Metadata by: Melissa Paduk. Metadata edited by Dr. Alisa Perkins and Sophia Wimberley.



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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 Eric Sabree on July 19, 2020