Originally a putatively Muslim group, Nuwaubianism is best understood as a cult that promotes a bizarre and complicated “theology.” Nuwaubians refer to their belief system – which mixes black supremacist ideas with worship of the Egyptians and their pyramids, a belief in UFOs and various conspiracies related to the Illuminati and the Bilderbergers, as “Nuwaubianism” – not as theology, but as “factology, “Right Knowledge,” or a slew of other names. The group’s founder and leader, Dwight York, took extreme advantage of its adherents, sexually abusing their children and conning the adults out of their possessions. In April 2004, he was sentenced to 135 years in prison for molesting children, among other crimes.
In Its Own Words
“We are the Indigenous people of these shores, before the settlers from Europe came to these shores spreading their way of life, their filth and religion.”
“White people are the devil. They say the Nuwaubians are not racist – bullcrap! I am…White people are devils — always was, always will be.”
— Dwight York, from his lecture “Egipt [sic] and the Mask of God”
“Christianity is merely a tool used by the Devil (Paleman) to keep you, the Nubian (Black) man, woman, and child blind to your true heritage and perfect way of life (Islam). It is another means of slavery.”
— Dwight York, “Santa or Satan? The Fallacy of Christmas,” undated essay
“The Caucasian has not been chosen to lead the world. They lack true emotions in their creation. We never intended them to be peaceful. They were bred to be killers, with low reproduction levels and a short life span. What you call Negroid was to live 1,000 years each and the other humans 120 years. But the warrior seed of Caucasians is only 60 years old. They were only created to fight other invading races, to protect the God race Negroids. But they went insane, lost control when they were left unattended. They were never to taste blood. They did, and their true nature came out. … Because their reproduction levels were cut short, their sexual organs were made the smallest so that the female of their race will want to breed with Negroids to breed themselves out of existence after 6,000 years. It took 600 years to breed them, part man and part beast.”
— Dwight York letter dated Nov. 10, 2004, “This is your message Najwa and Davina, Kirsten.”
By building a cult he trained to regard him as a god, Dwight York was able to create his own personal empire, over which he exercised dictatorial control. But before he was a god, he was a struggling ex-convict. Born in 1945, Dwight York was arrested for statutory rape on June 25, 1964, for having sex with a 13-year-old girl. He was given a suspended sentence and put on probation. York broke probation later that year, when he was arrested for possession of a deadly weapon, assault, and resisting arrest. As a result, he served three years in prison.
When York was released, he worked as a street peddler in Harlem, selling pamphlets he had written and other items including incense. York picked up a handful of followers, many of whom lived in his and his wife’s apartment. York’s group was originally known as “Ansar Pure Sufi.” In the early 1970s, they moved to Brooklyn and took on the name “Ansaru Allah Community” (AAC). AAC men were sent to the streets to sell pamphlets and books and incense. The literature raised money for York and his group, but it also promoted the AAC and encouraged readers to come to hear York preach. York, who went by several names while leading the group, began to adopt the moniker “Dr. Malachi Z. York.”
Through the 1970s and the 1980s, the AAC expanded greatly. York eventually had 500 people living in about 20 apartment buildings that he owned in the Bushwick district of Brooklyn. The AAC operated bookstores, gift shops, a clothing store, and a grocery store. AAC chapters were founded in several other U.S. cities, and abroad in Trinidad, London and Toronto.
AAC members in Brooklyn were asked to surrender all of their possessions, live in York’s barracks-style apartments, and work for free. Many were given a daily quota of $25 to $100, which they had to reach by begging or selling literature. Those who did not meet their quotas were beaten or otherwise disciplined by York’s thugs. York controlled his followers’ lives almost completely. He chose their spouses, “mating” them according to his whim. Men and women lived in separate buildings; when they wanted to have sex, they were forced to ask permission to use a designated room. Sex with one’s spouse was a privilege granted when one’s duties had been performed satisfactorily.
Meanwhile, York used the group as his personal harem. He was effectively able to have sex with any woman in the cult. He allegedly impregnated many of these women, and it wasn’t long before he started to pursue underage girls. York purchased an 80-acre property in the Catskill Mountains in New York in 1983 and used it as a retreat home that he called Camp Jazzir. According to one of York’s sons, he spent about $5 million to build a mansion on the land; girls and women were brought to Camp Jazzir by van and lived in trailers attached to the house.
One woman who grew up in the AAC recalls being sent as a 6-year-old to Camp Jazzir, where York molested her. Another woman recounts being manipulated into having sex with York when she was 12 years old. Some of the cult’s older women reportedly helped to manipulate the children, showing them pornography and sometimes participating in the molestation.
It is difficult to describe the Nuwaubians’ belief system because it has changed over time and lacks internal consistency. The group has put out dozens of books, many of which were largely plagiarized from new age works. As a result, Nuwaubian mythology is a disorienting mix of UFO theories, talk about the significance of Egypt and the pyramids, references to Atlantis, and retellings of stories from the Bible and other religious texts. A common claim is that the original humans were black and that blacks are genetically superior to other races. White people are called “devils,” a concept derived from the Nation of Islam’s beliefs, but Nuwaubians allege that their lighter skin color is the result of leprosy and the fact that their ancestors mated with dogs and jackals.
In 1993, York bought a 476-acre property in Putnam County, Ga., and moved there with members of his Brooklyn chapter. The relative isolation of the land probably appealed to him; the largest town in the region is Eatonton, population 6,764 in 2000. The move may also have been prompted by the fact that the group had been investigated by the FBI for criminal acts allegedly committed by its members in Brooklyn, including arson, welfare fraud, and illegal possession of weapons.
In Georgia, York dropped the pretense of being a Muslim. The group went through several names and identities: for a while, York claimed to be “Chief Black Eagle” of the “Yamassee Native American Moors of the Creek Nation.” He even applied for a license to operate a casino. After this failed, York settled on calling his group the “United Nation of Nuwaubian Moors,” using an Egyptian motif. He also started identifying himself as a god from outer space.
York had his followers build two pyramids out of wood and stucco and other Egyptian-style buildings on the compound, which they called “Tama-Re.” Most of the Nuwaubians at Tama-Re lived in cheap trailers, while York lived in a mansion on the property. As many as 400 other Nuwaubians lived in the surrounding area.
York’s operation became very profitable. During a June 1998 “Savior’s Day” celebration at the Georgia compound, York took in about $500,000. He charged Nuwaubians $25 a year for their Nuwaubian “passports,” which allowed them to enter and exit the compound. A network of chapters and bookstores, called All Eyes on Egipt, also brought in funds, and members continued to raise money through begging and holding jobs.
One of the group’s sources of revenue was a nightclub called “Club Ramses.” It was illegally operated in one of the Tama-Re pyramids, which had been zoned only for use as a storage facility. In May 1998, police officers shut down the club. In response, Nuwaubians printed slanderous articles about the government officials of Eatonton. They threatened town leaders and disrupted government board meetings. After attorney Frank Ford represented the county in a lawsuit against the Nuwaubians, his tires were slashed by Nuwaubian spokesman Bernard Foster, a rock was thrown through his office window, and a gutted dog was left in the street next to his house. Also, Putnam County sheriff Howard Sills was sent a number of anonymous death threats.
The Nuwaubians claimed that the town’s attempts to regulate their buildings were racially motivated. One Nuwaubian flier referred to two local black leaders as “house niggers.” Though these allegations gained little traction in Eatonton, they received national attention. Al Sharpton came to Tama-Re in 1999 to speak against the town’s ostensible racism, and Jesse Jackson spoke at Tama-Re in support of the Nuwaubians in April 2001.
Jacob York, one of Dwight’s oldest sons, learned about his father’s Tama-Re compound around 1998 (he had left the cult in 1990). Troubled by the news, he went to Georgia to confront his father. According to Jacob, Dwight told him: “I don’t believe in any of this shit. If I had to dress up like a nun, if I had to be a Jew, I’d do it for this type of money.” Jacob worked to build the case against Dwight by helping Sheriff Sills find and interview victims of his father’s abuse.
In Spring 2002, investigations by federal officials of York ramped up. Officials started planning to arrest York and raid his compound, but they wanted to avoid a Waco-like incident in which a deadly siege or standoff could occur. Putnam County inspectors had been turned away by armed Nuwaubian guards in the past, so it was possible that the situation could escalate if not handled properly.
On May 8, 2002, York and his most trusted “wife,” Kathy Johnson, were arrested after leaving Tama-Re. Later that day, 300 law enforcement officers, including agents of the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and several local sheriffs’ departments stormed the compound, meeting no resistance. They found about thirty stockpiled guns. On May 16, 2002, in a state case, York was indicted by a grand jury on 120 counts, including 74 counts of child molestation, 29 counts of aggravated child molestation, and one count of rape. When more evidence against York came to light, the number of counts grew even higher. A separate federal-level case charged York with racketeering and transporting children across state lines for the purpose of sexual intercourse.
York accepted a plea bargain in January 2003 after prosecutors promised him a fourteen-year sentence to be followed by probation. In the deal, York pleaded guilty to 77 state charges on January 24, a day after pleading guilty to a pair of federal charges. The state charges include 40 counts of aggravated child molestation, 34 counts of child molestation, two counts of influencing witnesses and one count of child exploitation.
In federal court, York pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful transport of minors for the purpose of engaging in sex acts and a count of attempting to evade financial reporting requirements. York will serve 15 years in federal prison if the court accepts a plea agreement. The state and federal prison terms would run concurrently. In June 2003, U.S. District Court Judge Hugh Lawson rejected the deal.
Lawson eventually recused himself from the case due to a defense motion and York’s case went to trial in 2004 in federal court. York was ultimately sentenced to 135 years in prison on the state charges. He was convicted on four counts of racketeering and six child molestation-related charges. The racketeering charges enabled the government to evict the Nuwaubians from Tama-Re and confiscate their property.
York’s “Main wife” Kathy Johnson reportedly did agree to a guilty plea and was sentenced to two years in prison. She had been accused of child molestation, procuring children for sex with York, and instructing the children on sexual techniques. In April 2004, Johnson was sentenced to two years in prison, to be followed by 18 years on probation. Three other women were initially charged, but have never been prosecuted.
York’s prison sentence did not destroy the Nuwaubians, though they have diminished in numbers. When the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals considered York’s case on appeal in September 2005, two hundred Nuwaubian protesters demonstrated in Atlanta to show their support (that October, the court upheld York’s conviction). In 2009, Nuwaubians tried to get York out of jail by sending false documents to his maximum security prison. Some of the documents were stamped by notaries public, six of whom lived in Athens, Ga., where some Nuwaubians have relocated. Howard Sills, the sheriff responsible for York’s arrest, has also been harassed by the Nuwaubians. They have sued him more than 12 times and once placed a fake lien on his property.
On Aug. 26, 2009, 300 people congregated at a federal courthouse in Macon, GA, to support an appeal filed to get York out of jail. As of 2011, Nuwaubians still posted frequently on websites and online forums, defending York’s innocence and alleging that the government framed him.