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The Black Business Pioneer Who Helped Set Up ‘Little Egypt’ In St. Louis


Clyde X was one of the Nation of Islam’s most well-known leaders, especially in St. Louis, Missouri, and Cleveland, Ohio. In each city, he left his mark. In Cleveland, he developed one of the country’s first African-American mosques and helped create an area in the community known as “Little Egypt.”

Clyde X, who was born sometime in 1931 and died Feb. 14, 2009, at the age of 79 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease, was also known as Clyde Rahman. It was in the 1970s that he became a follower of W. D. Muhammad’s Sunni faction of the NOI and established a mosque in Cleveland. He had been with the NOI prior.

Clyde X built Cleveland’s Masjid Bilal, one of the nation’s first African-American mosques. He made sure it was diversified by holding many interracial activities.

He had a complex life. Not only did he become a senior Imam in the NOI, but he also overcame racism and survived two shootings before becoming an ecumenical leader.

Born Clyde Jones in Canton, Miss., from the beginning he stood up for his rights and the rights of others. He spoke up to a white merchant when his father was short-changed for crops.

He fought in the Korean War. In the army, he was severely wounded. According to local legend, he often joked that he was cured when a nurse denied him morphine, and he jumped out of bed to chase her. After leaving the army, he became a policeman in Detroit. But soon he was attracted to the teachings of the NOI and joined and not long after became a minister in the organization, according to

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Rahman went on to lead temples in Dayton, St. Louis, Dallas, Kansas City, Baltimore, and Springfield, Ohio. In 1976, he moved to Cleveland, the following year, he helped lead many American Muslims on a pilgrimage to Mecca. By 1983, he helped build first mosques by African-Americans. He continued his work with the NOI in St. Louis.and helped to launch many business ventures , opening a restaurant called the “Shabbaz”; laundry; record store; dress shop; and a grocery along Grand Avenue, leading some in the community to call the area “Little Egypt.” 

While things were going well, there was some trouble with the Mosque No. 28 in St. Louis. In 1961, Clyde X’s Temple No. 28 saw an internal split, with members leaving to join the offshoot “Islamic Service Church” headquartered at 1902 Union Boulevard. NOI leader Elijah Muhammad was upset with the split, but the two temples were officially separated. Then violence erupted. Clyde X, Timothy Hoffman, and John Moore were shot outside the Shabazz restaurant in 1966. The main suspect was Hoffman’s brother Andrew, who was later arrested. Clyde and Hoffman were not seriously hurt, but Moore died as a result of his wounds. One year later, on January 9, 1967, Clyde X’s home was bombed, but he was unhurt. Andrew Hoffman was again suspected. Two days after this Andrew Hoffman and his wife were both shot to death outside their home, according to the book “Black Liberation in the Midwest: The Struggle in St. Louis, Missouri, 1964-1970” by Kenneth S. Jolly, and published by Studies in African American History and Culture, Colgate University.

Following Elijah Muhammad’s death, Clyde X joined Muhammad’s son W.D. Muhammad in his new organization, breaking away from the NOI.

Photo: Imam Clyde Rahman, spiritual leader of Cleveland’s Masjid Bilal congregation, worked to unify religions to promote peace. He died in 2009 at 79. Source: The Masjid Bilal Archive,

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