Oral History Interview with Nickie Graves Henderson on June 22, 2021 and July 13, 2021


Oral History Interview with Nickie Graves Henderson on June 22, 2021 and July 13, 2021



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Henderson, Nickie D. Graves


Yousif-Ahmad, Zainab; Perkins, Dr. Alisa (Research Director)


All video segments are in the same file. Oral history interview with Nickie D. Graves Henderson (formerly Nikki D. Graves Shakoor) conducted by Zainab Yousif-Ahmad on June 22, 2021 and July 13, 2021. Interview written by Dr. Alisa Perkins (Research Director) and Zainab Yousif-Ahmad. Nickie D. Graves Henderson was born in Detroit, Michigan on June 7, 1948 to parents who hailed from Arkansas and moved to Michigan in the 1930s as part of the Great Migration. As a teenager, Henderson gained admission to the prestigious Cass Technical High School in downtown Detroit, graduating at sixteen years old. Henderson worked as a telephone operator at Michigan Bell and attended Wayne County Community College. As a young adult, Henderson reverted from Christianity to Islam. She attended Historic Masjid Wali Muhammad and taught at the mosque-affiliated Sister Clara Muhammad School. In 1987, she graduated from Sienna Heights College with a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Science. With the support of a National Urban Fellowship award, she then attended City University of New York (CUNY) where she graduated with a Master’s in Public Administration. Henderson then moved to Cleveland, Ohio to work for the Department of Human Services, where she creatively responded to the needs of unhoused people. Returning to Detroit, she worked at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, where she integrated African-American history into the museum’s exhibits. In 1981, Henderson founded the League of Muslim Women (LMW) alongside six other women: Dr. Cheryl El-Amin, Tahira Hassanein Khalid, Sharifa Hud, Sahirah Muhammad, Dr. Viola Vaughn, and Georgia Wahid. Henderson served as the LMW’s president for its first ten years, when the organization primarily focused on providing Islamic social services to Detroit residents in need. The organization inspired the development of the International League of Muslim (ILWM), which currently has chapters nationwide and an international presence. In its first ten years, with Henderson as president, the League of Muslim Women in Detroit established several residential housing facilities for Muslim seniors and women in need, collected and distributed winter clothing, set up a food pantry and soup kitchen, and organized fundraisers including modest fashion shows, skating parties, and annual dinners. The LMW also established an educational exchange program to promote mutual learning between teenagers from Togo, West Africa and the United States. Henderson pursued doctoral studies at the University of Maryland College Park in Washington DC. She currently works as history project director at the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation in Falls Church, where she helps preserve the legacy of African Americans in the area. In this interview, Henderson reflects on the challenges and joys of establishing the League of Muslim Women, and the enduring friendships among its founders. Henderson also details her long and successful career trajectory, focusing on her current efforts to elevate African-American history.

Date of Interview

Summer 2021

Location of Interview

Detroit, MI (Interview conducted over Zoom)


501(c)3, Adoption, African-American community, African-American history, African-American literacy, Osman Almanza, Annual fundraising dinner, Architectural curriculum, Arkansas, Bachelor's degree, Baptist Christianity, Bible, Black-owned businesses, Bookmobiles, Boston-Edison neighborhood, Bylaws, Cass Technical High School, Child behavior, Childhood games, Church, City University of New York (CUNY), Civil Rights, Cleaning work, Cleveland, Clothing distribution, Community liaison, Community service, Conversion to Islam, Creative fundraising, Dawah Institute (Highland Park), Dearborn, Delta Sigma Theta sorority, Department of Health and Human Services, Detroit Institute of Arts Museum (DIA), Dexter-Linwood neighborhood, Discrimination, DNA testing, Do for self, Doctoral studies, Eastern Market, Eid skating party, Abdullah El-Amin, Dr Cheryl El-Amin, Idris El-Amin, Zarinah El-Amin, Emancipation Proclamation, Executive director, Fairfax County, Falls Church, Farming, Farmington Hills, Fenkell Avenue, First Resurrection, Food distribution, Food pantry, Ford Motor Company, Foster care, Foster children, Founder, Fruit of Islam (FOI), Fundraising, Genealogy, Gerrymandering, Gospel music, Graduate studies, Grandmont neighborhood, The Great Migration, Dick Gregory, Halal food, Hastings Street, Headscarf, Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, Highland Park, Historic homes, Historic Masjid Wali Muhammad, Historical archives, History project director, HIV education program, Homelessness, Honoring eldership, Housing rehabilitation, Housing segregation, Sharifa Hud, Interfaith relations, Intergenerational relations, International League of Muslim Women (ILMW), International student exchange program, International travel, Islamic social services, Tahira Hassanein Khalid, Kinship, League of Muslim Women (LMW), League of Muslim Women educational exchange, Library, Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), Lincoln Elementary School, Linwood Street, Little Rock, Master’s degree in Public Administration, Michigan Bell, Mission statement, Modest dress, Modest fashion show, Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, Moscow, Motherhood, Sahirah Muhammad, Mural District of Falls Hill Virginia, Museum education, Muslim adoption, Muslim American women's fashion, Muslim Center Mosque and Community Center, Muslim Girls Training Class (MGTC), Muslim seniors, Nation of Islam, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), National Urban Fellows, ‘Natural Diet for Folks Who Eat: Cookin' with Mother Nature’, Non-profit organization, Non-traditional student, Nursing home, Nursing school, Ohio, Oral history, Park Shelton Hotel, Peaches and Cream Luncheon, Pet ownership, Picnic, Pioneer House for Muslim seniors, Poverty, President of League of Muslim Women, Psalm 23, Public housing, Public service, Qur'an, Racial segregation, Racism, Resident Nurse (RN), Reversion to Islam, Sam Sanders, Saviours' Day, Segregation, Service leadership, Sexism, Nikki D. Graves Shakoor, Siblings, Siena Heights University, Sister Clara Muhammad Schools, Sisterhood, Skating party, Social work, Social worker, Southfield, Storytelling, Systemic racism, Teacher, Teaching, Teamwork, Telephone operator, Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation, Charles Tinner, Togo, Transatlantic slave trade, Unhoused population, United States Postal Service (USPS), University of Maryland, University of Maryland College Park, US Military, US Navy, Dr. Viola Vaughn, Virginia, Georgia Wahid, Walter P. Chrysler Freeway, Washington DC, Wayne County Community College, West Africa, West African ancestry, White supremacy, Winter coat giveaway, Woodward Avenue, 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


All video segments in the same file. Interview parts 1 and 2 conducted over Zoom by Zainab Yousif-Ahmad. Interview written by Dr. Alisa Perkins (Research Director) and Zainab Yousif-Ahmad, facilitated by Dr. Alisa Perkins. Video Edited by: Alexis Collis. Transcribed by: Delaney Novak. Transcription edited by: Dr. Alisa Perkins. Metadata prepared by: Hannah Cole. Metadata edited by: Dr. Alisa Perkins and Sophia Wimberley.



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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

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Oral History Interview with Nickie Graves Henderson on June 22, 2021 and July 13, 2021