United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors Meets Its Match in Georgia

A black supremacist cult leader meets his match in rural Georgia

Eatonton, Ga. — Who were these black cowboys? Folks in Putnam County, the sparsely populated "Dairy Capital of Georgia," could not help wondering.

Nobody had batted an eye in 1993, when a man from Brooklyn named Dwight York paid nearly $1 million for 476 acres out on Shady Dale Road. But when a bunch of stern-looking African-American Yankees in 10-gallon hats and lizard-skin boots began to pop up around Eatonton, Putnam's picturesque little county seat, people paid attention.

"You'd see the men, wearing boots and hats and all this, but hardly ever any women or children," says Georgia Smith, a long-time leader in Eatonton's black community. "Everybody'd say, 'Those the Yorks.' We thought it was a family."

Not for long. By 1996, three years later, hundreds more "Yorks" were moving down from big cities like Baltimore, Philadelphia, Hartford, New York and Washington, D.C.

The next thing anybody knew, the cowboys had morphed into Indians — the Yamassee Native American Moors of the Creek Nation, to be exact — and taken to calling York "Chief Black Eagle" while applying for a license to open a casino.

When the application was rejected, the Indians mutated into the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, shaving their heads and dressing all in black and erecting Egyptian pyramids and statuary along Shady Dale Road.

Or, wait — were they Moors first, then Indians? It could get mighty confusing. And the strangest thing of all was when York's men and women took to standing on street corners, passing out bizarre fliers that proclaimed York an alien from the Planet Rizq, sent to Earth as its savior.

On May 5, 2000, the fliers announced, 144,000 of the "chosen ones" would be taken up to the savior's home galaxy of Ilyuwn, while apocalypse commenced for those left behind.

Everybody's eyes were wide open now. But most Putnamites saw the Nuwaubians, as they were now universally known, as a curiosity rather than a threat.

"This is the South," says Dorothy Adams, a white woman who was formerly Putnam's county attorney. "We're used to kooks. Heck, we're prouds of our kooks. Every family has 'em. So we took a live-and-let-live attitude."

That was easy enough at first, because the fliers and the pyramids only told a sliver of the story. But York was more than a kook. He was one of the most successful — and least known — black supremacist leaders in America.

For nearly 25 years, he had been heading a sprawling, New York-based cult that believed his claims to be a "prophet," a "Master Teacher," and even God in the flesh.

Aside from his divinity, York's ever-changing message had one consistent foundation: black people's superiority to white people. Whites are "devils," York taught his minions, devoid of both heart and soul, their color the result of leprosy and genetic inferiority, their ancestors the sexual partners of dogs and jackals.

Putnam folks didn't know those parts yet. They also didn't know that the Nuwaubians' extraterrestrial savior was a convicted felon — he was arrested in 1964 for statutory rape, possession of a dangerous weapon, and resisting a police officer, and served nearly three years in prison.

They didn't know that his well-armed cult, replete with mosques and other properties throughout the Northeast and Southeast, had been investigated by the FBI, under the rubric of domestic terrorism, for crimes including murder, bank robbery, arson, counterfeiting, extortion, illegal weapons, and terrorizing former members.

They didn't know that York had relocated to Georgia amid rumors that he was molesting cult members' children. And they certainly had no idea that "the Yorks" would stir up racial tensions in Putnam, which is about one-third black.

But before long, Putnam County's 19,000 souls would be up to their ears in the Nuwaubians' peculiar brand of race-baiting. And by the time nearly 300 law enforcement officers stormed the compound on Shady Dale Road this May and hauled the savior off to jail on child molestation charges, local folks' tolerant curiosity had long since hardened into anger at the man who tried to start a race war in Georgia.

Building the Empire
In the early 1990s, Dwight York started to tell his cult members about a promised land in Georgia.

"He had to do something to keep people in the fold," says one of his children, a man who spoke to the Intelligence Report but asked to be identified only by his first name, Jacob.

After a remarkable two-decade run, York's pseudo-Islamic cult in Brooklyn, the Ansaru Allah Community (AAC), had started to unravel. Rumors of York's sexual predations had started a "mass exodus" from the AAC, Jacob says.

To make matters worse, York's Islamic legitimacy had been battered by an exposé, The Ansar Cult. And now the FBI was on the AAC's trail, looking into atrocities including the highly suspicious 1979 murder of a Brooklyn community leader who'd spoken out against York and his cult.

A videotape made years later captures the dream York tried to sell his urban disciples.

"I'm talking about a real nation, our own nation," York proclaims in his high-pitched, antic voice. "With our own passports, with our own tax system, where no one tells us what to do but us."

For "us," read "me." Like his fellow cult leader David Koresh, York had proven himself a megalomaniac who thrived on controlling others. And like the frightening Yahweh Ben Yahweh in Florida — another black messiah, whose cult was linked to the murder of 23 people — he used race as a control mechanism.

"Here is this black man who waves the nationalist flag, pushing the black thing and downing the white man," Siddiq Muhammad, who was with York from 1968 to 1980, told Ansar Cult author Bilal Philips, a Jamaican-born Muslim critic who later moved to Saudi Arabia. "The white man is the devil, the blue-eyed are condemned to be despised as apes."

AAC members were required to turn over their possessions and, in Jacob's words, "work as free labor." Men, women and children lived in separate quarters. Conjugal visits were forbidden without York's consent.

The men were sent into the streets, begging for change and peddling incense and the eccentric spiritual tracts York had begun to dictate. They had to meet quotas of $25 to $100 a day, an amount set by York "depending on his monetary needs at the time," or, allegedly, face the wrath of York's strong-armed enforcers — a situation that, many ex-members claim, led naturally to widespread criminal activity.

Meanwhile, ex-members say that the AAC women were pushed to sign up for welfare. In some cases, York allegedly impregnated the women to keep them in the fold and also earn extra welfare dollars. In others, the women allegedly used urine samples from pregnant women to show that they were pregnant and thereby earn a bigger welfare check.

York used the income to build up a real-estate empire centered around Brooklyn's elaborate Bushwick Avenue mosque. In 1983, he paid $145,000 for a large piece of property in Sullivan County, N.Y., where he established "Camp Jazzir Abba"; neighbors occasionally complained of hearing automatic gunfire.

He built mosques and other facilities in places including Harford; Baltimore; Atlanta; Cleveland; Detroit; Pittsburgh; Philadelphia; Washington, D.C.; London, England; Toronto, Canada; and Trinidad and Jamaica.