African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem - Origins


The group was founded in Chicago by a former steel worker named Ben Carter (b.1939), who took the name Ben Ammi upon joining the Hebrew Israelite community in Chicago. Denouncing the name Ben Carter and calling it his "slave name," Ben Ammi says that in 1966 he had a "vision," in which the Archangel Gabriel called him to take his people, African Americans, back to the Holy Land of Israel.

Ammi and his followers draw on a long tradition in black American culture (see Black Hebrew Israelites) which holds that black Americans are the descendants of the Ancient Israelites (Ammi cites Charles Harrison Mason of Mississippi, William Saunders Crowdy of Virginia, Bishop William Boome of Tennessee, Charles Price Jones of Mississippi and Elder Saint Samuel of Tennessee as early exponents of black descent from Israelites). Ammi claimed that the Israelites, after having been expelled from Jerusalem under the Romans, migrated to West Africa. They were later captured and transported to America as slaves.

They are influenced by the teachings of the Jamaican proponent of Black nationalism, Marcus Garvey (1887–1940), and by the Black civil rights milieu in 1960s America, including figures such as the Black Panthers, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. From these they have incorporated elements of black separatism as well as the doctrine of repatriation of the African Diaspora to its ancestral lands in a "return to Africa", of which they consider Israel to be a part. Israel is claimed to be located in Northeastern Africa.

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