Muhammad, Benjamin Franklin Chavis

Muhammad, Benjamin Franklin Chavis,

1948–, African-American civil-rights and religious leader, b. Oxford, N.C., as Benjamin Franklin Chavis, Jr. An activist from boyhood, he was a youth coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In the late 1970s, Chavis was one of ten men wrongly imprisoned (1976–80) after leading a Wilmington, N.C., demonstration. A minister in the United Church of Christ from 1980, he headed (1985–93) that church's Commission for Racial Justice before his 1993 appointment as director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored PeopleNational Association for the Advancement of Colored People
(NAACP), organization composed mainly of American blacks, but with many white members, whose goal is the end of racial discrimination and segregation.
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 (NAACP). Controversy surrounding his leadership of the NAACP and his handling of sexual harassment and discrimination charges against him led to his dismissal the following year. In 1994–95 he was national director for the Million Man March in Washington (Oct., 1995). In 1997 he announced himself a member of the Nation of Islam (see Black MuslimsBlack Muslims,
African-American religious movement in the United States, split since the late 1970s into the American Society of Muslims and the Nation of Islam. The original group was founded (1930) in Detroit by Wali Farad (or W. D.
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) and began to preach as a Muslim minister; he changed his surname from Chavis to Muhammad. In 2001 he became president of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network,