The Promise of Patriarchy

Women and the Nation of Islam

By Ula Yvette Taylor

288 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 14 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-3393-0
    Published: October 2017
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-3392-3
    Published: October 2017
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-3394-7
    Published: September 2017
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4050-9
    Published: September 2017

John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture

Buy this Book

For Professors:
Free E-Exam Copies

To purchase online via an independent bookstore, visit

Awards & distinctions

2018 Liberty Legacy Foundation Award, Organization of American Historians

2018 Letitia Woods Brown Prize, Association for Black Women Historians

Honorable Mention, 2018 Darlene Clark Hine Award

The patriarchal structure of the Nation of Islam (NOI) promised black women the prospect of finding a provider and a protector among the organization’s men, who were fiercely committed to these masculine roles. Black women’s experience in the NOI, however, has largely remained on the periphery of scholarship. Here, Ula Taylor documents their struggle to escape the devaluation of black womanhood while also clinging to the empowering promises of patriarchy. Taylor shows how, despite being relegated to a lifestyle that did not encourage working outside of the home, NOI women found freedom in being able to bypass the degrading experiences connected to labor performed largely by working-class black women and in raising and educating their children in racially affirming environments.

Telling the stories of women like Clara Poole (wife of Elijah Muhammad) and Burnsteen Sharrieff (secretary to W. D. Fard, founder of the Allah Temple of Islam), Taylor offers a compelling narrative that explains how their decision to join a homegrown, male-controlled Islamic movement was a complicated act of self-preservation and self-love in Jim Crow America.

About the Author

Ula Yvette Taylor is professor of African American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.
For more information about Ula Yvette Taylor, visit the Author Page.


"A well written, complex narrative that sits at the intersection of race, religion, culture, and gender."—Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual (WATER)

“A refreshing, robust study of the most prominent community of African American Muslims in the 20th century.” —Reading Religion

“Explores how black women struggled for voice and agency within a Black Power organization. . . . Deserve[s] a wide audience among scholars of African American women’s history and of the civil rights and Black Power movements in particular.” —Journal of Southern History

“An easy-to-follow and thought-provoking, yet thoroughly documented, work. It is suitable for undergraduates, graduates, and scholars alike.” —Nova Religio

“Peels back the layers of mystery and silence associated with the NOI to provide a riveting account of the daily lives of the group’s members and the profound crises and contradictions of the organization. . . . Well-written, richly sourced, and intensely felt.”—Journal of American History

“Taylor’s The Promise of Patriarchy offers the first in-depth, book-length analysis of women within the Nation of Islam. . . . Her astute reading of archival sources and deft use of oral histories. . . . [complicate] simple narratives of gender domination and resistance, revealing the multidimensionality of Black women’s inner lives and struggles.” —The North Meridian Review