The Yaweh ben Yahweh Cult
An Eye for an Eye
It was also a time of personal upheaval for Mitchell, according to Freedberg. He received an honorable discharge and enrolled as a Psychology major at Enid's Phillips University, which had recently opened its doors to black students. He also started dabbling in alternative spiritual movements, including the Rosicrucians, a secretive order whose adherents believe they can develop "mental powers" to help them achieve health, wealth, and happiness.
All Mitchell's spiritual and political angsting was too much for his conservative wife. They divorced, and he was awarded custody of their children when she didn't show in court for the custody proceedings.
But Mitchell grew disillusioned with the civil rights movement.
"The civil rights movement," he'd later say," was not about becoming free from the oppressor. The civil right movement was about fighting and dying to get inside of oppression, to be better oppressed... The civil rights movement was about being able to stop giving your money to your black brother and give it all to your oppressor. You wanted to sleep in the white hotel and eat in the white restaurant so you wouldn't have to eat in the black restaurant no more."
He started attending meetings of the Nation of Islam, whose adherents believe blacks are genetically superior to other races and call for total segregation. Suddenly Mitchell no longer viewed his blackness as a curse, but a blessing.
Blacks had to band together to physically protect themselves from the racist white establishment, the Nation taught. The group's eye-for-an-eye militancy was more appealing to Mitchell than the turn-the-other-cheek Christianity of his parents.
Mitchell X moved to Atlanta, where he attended a mosque, studied the Qur'an, and took courses toward a Master's degree in Economics at Atlanta University. He gave his money to black merchants and home-schooled his children with the help of a new wife, Chloe Hight. He hawked copies of the nation's newspaper, "Muhammad Speaks," on street corners and changed his last name to "Shah," which means ruler or minister.
He started conducting his own services in a converted Baptist church, and he was a keen speaker, fluent in both ghetto and business slang. He used his degree to manage Black Muslim enterprises, including restaurants, a bakery and a clothing store.
But just as "Minister Shah's" power within the Nation was growing, he was accused of fleecing $50,000 from church coffers and molesting children in his flock. Mitchell, 32, didn't wait around for church investigations to conclude, but quit the movement, fearing that he'd end up assassinated like Malcolm X.