A Generation Ago, Charles Jacobs Started a Movement to Free Black Jihad Slaves

Dr. Charles Jacobs receives the Boston Freedom Award from Coretta Scott King and Mayor Tom Menino — September 18, 2000.

WATCH: How we brought the cause of black jihad slaves to Washington back in 1996

A generation ago, an abolitionist movement co-founded by Mohammed Athié, a Muslim from Mauritania, Simon Deng, a Christian from South Sudan, and Charles Jacobs, an American Jew, brought its case to Washington.

On March 13, 1996, Jacobs, along with fellow activists from the new American Anti-Slavery Group, spoke at two panels on slavery in Mauritania and Sudan: one at Howard University, the other on Capitol Hill.

Dr. Charles Jacobs Speaks to Howard University (March 13, 1996)


Dr. Charles Jacobs Addresses the House International Relations Committee (March 13, 1996)


The testimony had serious consequences.

First, it brought Louis Farrakhan out in a rash of fury. Farrakhan, a long-time ally of slave-holding Arab regimes, had always denied that there was any jihad slavery in Sudan. His mission, after all, is convincing American blacks to liberate themselves by leaving Christianity, “the white man’s faith,” and converting to Islam, “the path to freedom.” Reports of Arabs enslaving black Muslims in Mauritania destroys it.

The day after the abolitionists spoke to Congress, on March 14, while wrapping up a speech at a black press award ceremony, an unknown reporter asked him what he thought about the congressional hearing the previous afternoon.

Farrakhan exploded: “If slavery exists, why don’t you go,” he bellowed, waving his finger at the reporter, “as a member of the press?! And you look inside of the Sudan?! And if you find it, then you come back, and tell the American people what you have found!”

Louis Farrakhan Denies the Existence of Slavery in Sudan (March 14, 1996)


Farrakhan’s taunt backfired: The Baltimore Sun took up his challenge, and, that June, published a three-part, Pulitzer-nominated story describing how two of their best journalists went to Sudan and bought two enslaved boys’ freedom.

From that point, Farrakhan’s ability to deny slavery’s existence diminished, and the American Anti-Slavery Group’s cause eventually reached the White House, where, in 2002, President Bush signed the AASG-backed Sudan Peace Act, lending U.S. support to an end to jihad in Sudan. The jihad officially ended in 2005, paving the way for the secession of South Sudan in 2011.

Today, Arabs and Muslims still own black slaves, and, today, we have created a new coalition to fight back: the African-Jewish Alliance.

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