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How the Arab World Influences African American History

posted on: Sep 22, 2021

By: Nadia Reese/Arab America Contributing Writer


The Arab world has made grand influences in African Diasporac history for centuries, which means that there is an influence in African American culture. Between the arts, language, fashion, and food, the Arab community has always been there in the African American culture. Even the literature which was written against the ideas of colonialism inspired leaders who led people of color out of slavery and oppression. There is even a parallel world between the Arab and the African-American community where people from both communities have experienced injustices as minorities.  In fact, there were prominent individuals from the Arab community who helped to end the slave trade between the Americas. 

Experiences and History:

Black Lives Matter protest against police brutality in Tunis, Tunisia. Photo: The Christian Science Monitor

African Americans and the Arab American communities have historic matters that can parallel each other. From the fight for equal representation and equal rights to family life as well as expectations, both communities have had the experiences while living in the United States as well as in countries that are neither part of the Arab world or the African Diaspora. The United States has had a history of treating minorities as less than. Due to this, both communities have had experiences with issues of identity in terms of history and It’s no surprise that many minorities have experienced questioning their identity due to a lack of information in the United States education system. However, there are many organizations that are currently planning to change this issue. 

Language and Literature:

African American Literature. Photo: Study Breaks

Literature has always been used as a means of inspiration through hardships and connecting with others. During the times of slavery in the United States, Africans or African-Americans such as Bilali Mohammad and Salih Bilali used verses from the Qur’an to send letters back to their loved ones who were still living in their home countries. In those letters, their were writings based on how slavery affected them, who was born, who died, plans to escape from their slaveholders, instead of when they told their slaveholders that, “the words being written were passages from the bible.” Each word was written in Arabic.

Some historians have claimed that some verses from the Quran had evolved into musical traditions such as the early shouts of blues music as well as today’s Blues music. It is shown within the instruments and vocal styles of some blues musicians derived from the Arab culture. Even the Hip-Hop genre has brought both the African American and the Arab communities together. Recording artists, French Montana and DJ Khaled have collaborated on songs with the likes of Beyonce, Rick Ross, and many more. 


Civil Rights Movement leader, Malcolm X. Photo: Al-Jazeera

The Muslim community is a popular religion amongst those in the Arab world. It is also a religion that is historically followed by the African-American community. Many African-American leaders such as civil rights activist, Malcolm X worked with the Nation of Islam because he believed that the Muslim Faith was the original faith of African-Americans.

The Nation of Islam’s beliefs differs somewhat from “mainstream Islamic traditions” in that it is both a religious and political organization. Their beliefs focus on “Black Nationalism that features many different gods in succession who is named Allah, but they take the form of a Black man.” Later on near the end of Malcolm X’s life, he converted to Sunni Islam after a pilgrimage to Mecca.

Goals and Inspirations:

African American and Arab Muslims at the mosque. Photo: WBEZ Chicago

Both communities strive for peace within their own communities and with the world around them. Between the languages, arts, and culture, each category is a way to bring the world closer together. African Americans can be inspired by the many successes from those of the Arab world while Arab Americans can be inspired the same way. 

The African American community and the Arab world have had influence over each other since the beginning of time. In fact, all cultures have had influence and inspiration. From history to the present, the way we speak, the way we pray, and the arts that we share, we can all inspire each other in many ways. It’s how we use that inspiration that matters. You can learn more about your culture here at Be sure to visit African-American Smithsonian if you’re interested in learning more about the African American culture. 

Check out Arab America’s blog here!