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Another group entered the Niagara Falls area in about 1961 or 1962, a group that vehemently opposed the Civil Rights Movement. That group was the Nation of Islam. (102) The Niagara Falls Gazette viewed them as fanatics. (103) Members from the Muslim temple in Buffalo, Temple 23, came to Niagara Falls to recruit members into the Nation of Islam and to perhaps establish a temple in the area. Although the majority of black leaders, such as Pollard, Bolden, Bond, and Griffin, had been seeking to integrate black Niagara Fallsians into the mainstream of the community, the Muslims sought, among other things, to convert the black community to Islam, Islamic separatism and the development of an independent economic base within the black community. The Muslims gained few converts in the area, probably because most black Niagara Fallsians were Baptists or Methodists and vigorously opposed considering any religion other than Christian. (104)
At an NAACP forum on civil rights at the Niagara Community Center, for example, when Bloneva Bond was asked if the NAACP should join forces with the Muslims on a project that could benefit the entire black community, she responded: "No. Ours is a democratic organization operating within the Constitution. We believe in the equality of man, which the Muslims do not." (105) Griffin also did not view the Muslims as a helpful force within the community. (106) They were generally perceived as a cult that impeded the progress of the struggling black community. (107)
Notwithstanding the limited influence of Islam, adherence to some of the Muslim teachings might have benefited black Niagara Fallsians. (108) The Muslims preached community economic development, the pooling of economic resources, and the development of an enterprising mindset. (109) Booker T. Washington had preached these same ideas years earlier, but they were not generally embraced. Accepting some of these principles might have been of tremendous help to the black community, which was struggling economically, especially during the early 1960s when the booming economic effects of World War II had receded.
In 1963, for example, the NAACP conducted a survey of employment of black Niagara Fallsians and found that 17.6 percent of the heads of families were unemployed. (110) Thus, adherence to Muslim economic principles perhaps might have helped to establish a stronger, more advanced economic structure and an enterprising tradition within the black community, which was sorely needed.
With the Muslims operating on the fringes of the black community, black Niagara Fallsians continued to promote and support the strategies and tactics of the Civil Rights Movement, whose influence was not only widespread but also motivational. Taking their cue from national events, such as the Sit-in Movement, the Birmingham Desegregation Movement, the March on Washington and other civil rights protest activities, the leadership continued to voice their concern about housing and employment, making stronger demands.