Enslaved Africans Were the First to Celebrate Ramadan in the United States.
In line with the start of Ramadan this year, its important to note how the history of Islam in America is inextricably linked with the arrival of enslaved Africans. Whilst some may think the second-most practiced faith in the United States does not have a long-standing history in the country, social scientists estimate that 15 to 30 percent, or “as many as 600,000 to 1.2 million,” slaves in antebellum America were Muslims. Forty-six percent of the slaves in the antebellum South were kidnapped from Africa’s western regions, which boasted “significant numbers of Muslims.”
The failure to not recognize this fact is not only an ignorant viewpoint that erases both the history of early African-American presence and Islam in the US, but also sheds light on racist historical perspectives that exist both in American and Muslim societies.
With many of these individuals coming from communities throughout the Western coast of Africa, many sought to keep their faith intact as best they could, including the observation of Ramadan. Due to the harsh conditions of slavery, this was not always easily done and with time, many traditions were lost through the brutality of the system of slavery that prevented or outlawed the passing on of many significant cultural practices that were brought to the United States through enslaved Africans.