Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Nathan L. M. Tabor, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Brian C. Wilson, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

David Benac, Ph.D.


American history, Black Islam, Detroit history, modern American history, Nation of Islam, twentieth century

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


The bean pie is the product of culinary traditions set forth by the Nation of Islam. Nation members used the navy bean to whip up a custardy dessert utilizing religiously approved ingredients. Milk, eggs, brown sugar, and whole wheat flour transformed a savory, well-cooked bean into a sweet treat. Pies made from beans were not invented by the Nation of Islam, but they became symbolic of the culture and institutions established by Black Muslims in America. The Nation of Islam shaped Michigan and the midwestern region’s social and cultural identity. The Nation promoted that Black people ought to have power in society. “We must have land!” reiterated nearly every issue of the Nation’s official newspaper, Muhammad Speaks, often on multiple pages in succession. The Nation invented ways that Black people could achieve power, separation, and nationalism through agriculture and food systems. The Nation of Islam linked Black residents of Detroit to their agricultural, religious, and industrious roots that connected them to the greater narrative of the African diaspora and midwestern American history. This essay looks specifically at how the Nation’s vision for Black America manifested into an obsession with the navy bean. In the two-part series, How to Eat to Live, the navy bean is continuously proposed as a solution to Black Americans’ problems. If Black people could establish their own economy, and provide for their own needs, they could overcome American white supremacy and establish Black empowerment.