“Oriental Hieroglyphics Understood Only by the Priesthood and a Chosen Few”

Jacob S. Dorman

in Islam and the Americas

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print April 2015 | ISBN: 9780813060132
Published online January 2016 | e-ISBN: 9780813050584 | DOI:
“Oriental Hieroglyphics Understood Only by the Priesthood and a Chosen Few”

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Gilded Age Orientalism was a protean and plastic phenomenon. No part of United States popular culture expressed Orientalism more than a uniquely American secret society known as the Shriners, or the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine for North America, founded among whites in 1872 and among African Americans in 1893. Intent on having a good time and expressing their masculinity irreverently, the Shriners seldom took their own legends very seriously. Blacks interpreted the Orientalist myth at the heart of Shrinerdom differently than their white peers. The most common attitude in white Shrine literature is one of overwrought reverence for Islam and the Orient, whereas Black Shriners used the mystique of the Orient to advance the causes of racial uplift and civil rights. Black Shriners directly inspired the religious pioneer Noble Drew Ali and new twentieth-century Black Muslim movements.

Keywords: African Americans; Noble Drew Ali; civil rights; Freemasonry; Gilded Age; Islam; masculinity; Orientalism; popular culture; Shriners

Chapter.  7954 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Society and Culture

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