From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Moorish Science Temple of America in Kentucky [Mary Clift Bey]

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The Moorish Science Temple of America began as a religious movement in 1913 known as the Canaanite Temple, founded in New Jersey by Timothy Drew (1886-1929). The name was changed to the Moorish Holy Temple of Science in the early 1920s. Read more at the organization's website. Drew became known as Prophet Noble Drew Ali, he moved the main branch of the organization to Chicago, IL in 1925 and the Moorish Science Temple of America, Inc. was officially registered as a corporation in 1926. There were also branches in Philadelphia, Washington D. C., and Detroit.

A focus of the religion was that American Blacks were of Moor ancestry and should return to Islam. There were teachings of racial pride, the rejection of negative labels, and a mission to uplift the race using education and non-confrontational methods. Moorish-American Voice is the organization's publication. Members of the organization added "Ali," "El," and "Bey" to their surnames as an indication of their Moor identity. The Nation of Islam grew out of the Moorish Science Temple of America.

There was a Moorish Science Temple of America in Lexington, KY, according to the overview of the Moorish Science Temple of America Collection, 1926-1967, a New York Public Library website. There was an FBI report of a branch in Paducah, KY [source: Part 2 FBI File: 62-25889: Section 3. Feb-Mar 1943. FBI File on the Moorish Science Temple of America. Federal Bureau of Investigation Library. Archives Unbound.]. Moorish Science Temple of America #45 was located at 628 S. Ninth Street in Louisville, KY. All branches in all locations were watched by the local police, and were considered a radical group that was monitored by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) which sometimes referred to the organization as a "cult" in FBI correspondence.

The Moorish Science Temple of America #45 in Louisville was organized in August of 1938 by Mary Clift Bey who came to Kentucky from Chicago, IL [source: File No.100-2273 dated 12/8/42 - citation: Part 1 FBI File: 62-25889: Section 2. Dec 1942-Feb 1943. FBI File on the Moorish Science Temple of America. Federal Bureau of Investigation Library. Archives Unbound.]. Mary Clift Bey was one of the first female missionaries from the Chicago temple; she was named the grand governess of the Louisville temple in 1941. Bey is listed as a teacher by the name of "Cilft Bey" on p.189 of Caron's Louisville (Kentucky) City Directory, 1939; she lived at 628 S. Ninth Street. In 1940, her name is listed as "Clift Bey" who lived at 630 S. Ninth Street, listed on p.191 of Caron's Louisville (Kentucky) City Directory, 1940. She is also listed in the 1940 U.S. Federal Census as "Cliff M. Bey" with no occupation or income, and living with Jesse Bey (born in KY) and Birdie Lee Bey (born in KY), all at 630 1/2 S. Ninth Street. According to the census record, Mary Clift Bey was born in Tennessee around 1876, she was a widow, and had completed the 4th grade of school. A physical description of Mary Clift Bey is included in the FBI files; the description was based on an eye witness and a photograph the FBI obtained from the library of the Courier Journal newspaper. Bey was said to be about 45-50 years old; 5'3" tall; 175 pounds; brown complexion; straight black hair worn in a bob; maroon eyes, wears glasses; wide mouth; and a teacher by occupation [source: Part 1 FBI File: 62-25889: Section 2. Dec 1942-Feb 1943. FBI File on the Moorish Science Temple of America. Federal Bureau of Investigation Library. Archives Unbound.].

Within the 1942 FBI report, Mary Clift Bey was said to live at 437 S. 9th Street with seven other people with the last name Bey (p.7). The Moorish Science Temple of America in Louisville, KY, was said to have about 50 members. In 1939 there were about 41 members when Mary Clift Bey led the members to register to vote and all were registered with the Democratic Party (p.9). According to the FBI files, there was an article about their voter registrations in the Courier Journal (p.10), and there was much discussion and dispute about the members' legal names (p.11). The headquarters of the Louisville Temple was at 628 S. Ninth Street (p.10).

Mary Clift Bey, said to have been born in Macon County, Tennessee (p.12), was also investigated for her work in Chicago, and possible activity in Detroit and Pittsburgh (p.19). In January of 1943, the U.S. Assistant Attorney General distributed a memorandum stating that "there was not sufficient evidence at that time to establish prosecution [of the Moorish Temple of America] under the Sedation Statuses" [source: Part 1 FBI File: 62-25889: Section 2. Dec 1942-Feb 1943. FBI File on the Moorish Science Temple of America. Federal Bureau of Investigation Library. Archives Unbound.]. Though, the surveillance was continued.

In March of 1943, Special Agent in Charge, Hebert K. Moss, of the Louisville branch of the FBI, forwarded a series of reports to the Director of the FBI concerning C. Kirkman Bey and et. al. and the Moorish Science Temple of America in Louisville, KY [source: Part 2 FBI File: 62-25889: Section 5. Feb-Apr 1943. FBI File on the Moorish Science Temple of America. Federal Bureau of Investigation Library. Archives Unbound.]. The reports were dated December 1, 1942 through March 6, 1943. There are presently no Moorish Science Temple of America organizations in Kentucky.

For more see Who was Noble Drew Ali? by Isa Abd Allah Muhammad al-Mahdi; see "Moorish Science Temple" in the Encyclopedia of African and African-American Religions edited by S. D. Glazier; and Islam in the African-American Experience by R. B. Turner.

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Read about Paducah, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

References

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Moorish-American voice (periodical)
NKAA Source: Archives Unbound: Federal Surveillance of African Americans, 1920-1984 (Database)
NKAA Source: Caron's Louisville (Kentucky) city directory (annual)
NKAA Source: Courier-Journal [Louisville] (newspaper)
NKAA Source: Who was Noble Drew Ali?
NKAA Source: Encyclopedia of African and African-American religions
NKAA Source: Islam in the African-American experience

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Moorish Science Temple of America in Kentucky [Mary Clift Bey],” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed November 20, 2017, https://nkaa.uky.edu/nkaa/items/show/3020.

Last modified: 2017-09-14 17:33:30