Sufi Abdul Hamid (born Eugene Brown) (January 6, 1903 in Lowell, Massachusetts – July 30, 1938) was an African-American religious and labor leader, and among the first African converts to Islam, accused of Anti-Semitism. He is best known for his role in the business boycotts in Harlem in the early 1930s that were designed to draw attention to discriminatory employment practices of white, mainly Jewish business owners.
In Chicago he styled himself Bishop Conshankin, a Buddhist cleric, then moved to New York in 1932, taking up residence in Harlem. Despite converting to Islam, he probably had no connection with the Nation of Islam. He eventually styled himself His Holiness Bishop Amiru Al-Mu-Minin Sufi A. Hamid, and his press man claimed that he had been born in Egypt beneath the shadow of a pyramid. He sported a mustache, and dressed flamboyantly, wearing a Nazi-style military shirt, gold-lined cape, purple turban, and a dagger in his belt.
During the Great Depression, unemployment among blacks in Harlem reached 50%. Hamid initiated an effort to encourage white business owners in Harlem to hire black workers, often picketing stores and giving speeches on street corners.
Hamid especially targeted Jewish store owners, and encouraged black shoppers to boycott certain stores that did not hire blacks, intimidating them into hiring workers from his own private labor union. His usual modus operandi was to collect one dollar dues from each unemployed black worker who wanted a job at a store before starting his pressure campaign to get them hired. Eventually he became wealthy.
He was openly anti-Semitic. Giving speeches from stepladders on 125th Street, he declared himself the only man who could stop the Jews, accusing them of spreading filth and disease, and calling on his followers to tear out the tongue of any Jew they met. He boasted that he was the “only one fit to carry on the war against the Jews”, and vowed “an open bloody war against the Jews who are much worse than all other whites.” This caused him to be known as the “Black Hitler”.
After Jewish store owners met with New York mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, Hamid was arrested, but later released.
His union changed names many times, from the Negro Industrial and Clerical Alliance to the Afro-American Federation of Labor. Adam Clayton Powell briefly joined forces with him in labor protests and store boycotts, and broke ranks when his rhetoric moved beyond targeting whites and Jews to light-skinned blacks.
Violent clashes with rival black unions led to Hamid’s arrest for stabbing Hammie Snipes, a former follower of Marcus Garvey who became a Communist labor union organizer.
He allegedly had a role in organizing the Harlem Riot of 1935, Harlem’s first race riot, which destroyed 200 businesses and cost $2 million in damage.
Eventually the courts barred Hamid from his picketing, forcing him to focus his energies on his mosque, the Universal Holy Temple of Tranquility, where he dubbed himself a bishop, causing his nickname to change from the Black Hitler to the Black Mufti.
He married Stephanie St. Clair, who ran Harlem’s numbers racket. After she shot him, he divorced her and married candle shop owner and fortune-teller Dorothy Hamid, who styled herself Madame Fu Futtam, and claimed to be Asian.
By 1938, Hamid had his own private airplane and a white secretary. Attempting to assuage followers that the luxury of owning it was mitigated by keeping it low on fuel, he died in an airplane crash while piloting his own plane; his secretary survived with only a broken elbow.
After his death, his widow attempt to keep the mosque going by claiming nightly visitations by him from beyond the grave, predicting that he would return in sixty days, which didn’t come true. Not long after the mosque became a dance hall featuring a one-legged dancer. Today the site at 103 Morningside Avenue is the home of St. Luke’s Baptist Church (source).