Mosque No. 6, the predecessor of the Masjid Ul-Haqq, purchased a two-story brick garage on Wilson Street around 1958. The building, located within the Old West Baltimore Historic District, likely dates back to the 1870s and operated as part of P. Bradley’s Livery Stables up to the early 1900s.
By the 1920s, new owners converted the stables into a garage and service station. Over the past fifty years, the surrounding blocks of West Baltimore grew from an affluent suburb into a busy neighborhood packed with rowhouses; mixed in with small shops and industrial businesses on the side streets; and well known for the restaurants, clubs, and theaters along Pennsylvania Avenue. Black residents replaced the prior white owners and occupants of the rowhouses along Division Street, Druid Hill Avenue, McCulloh Street, and Madison Avenue in a gradual, but often contentious, transition. By 1938, the business then known as Jack’s Garage had a Black manager, William Goodwin. That same year, Chandler V. Wynn acquired the business. A North Carolina native, Wynn moved to Baltimore and graduated from Morgan State College in 1931.
Wynn was just one of thousands of African Americans moving from North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland’s Eastern Shore to seek new opportunities in Baltimore in 1910s, 1920s, and 1930s. In Baltimore, and in cities including New York, Detroit, Chicago, and Philadelphia, the migration coincided with a rise of new Black religious movements. These new movements included the Moorish Science Temple of America established by North Carolina-native Noble Drew Ali in Newark in 1913 and the National of Islam, founded by Georgia-native Wallace Fard Muhammad in Detroit, Michigan in 1930. By 1928, the Moorish Science Temple included a congregation at 705 S. Sharp Street in south Baltimore with a reported “sizeable following” headed by the Mississippi-born Brother Cook-Bey. By 1949, the Baltimore temple had moved to the 1400 block of Laurens Street about five blocks west of the garage on Wilson Street.
Elijah Muhammad became the leader of the Nation of Islam in 1934. Around 1935, Muhammad helped establish a temple in Washington, D.C. making it the fourth temple after Detroit, Chicago, and Milwaukee. The growth of the movement slowed after Elijah Muhammad’s arrest for resisting the draft and spent four years in prison from 1942 to 1946. Baltimore’s mosque was established the same year as Muhammad’s release and grew quickly in the late 1940s and early 1950s. (Note: Elijah Muhammad reportedly spoke at a rally in Harlem Park in 1947 to support this early growth.)
According to Dawan B. EL-Amin, the congregation was located on the 600 block of Ensor Street in 1947 but quickly outgrew the space and moved to the 700 block of West Lexington Street. In 1957, the congregation led by led Minister Isaiah Karriem was formally designated Temple No. 6 (later known as Mosque Six). The growing membership required another move to the 1000 block of Pennsylvania Avenue before the mosque purchased the building on Wilson Street around 1958. (Note: These dates and locations are unverified – EL-Amin suggests the congregation bought the Wilson Street building in 1956 but that seems inaccurate.)
Since the end of World War II, the garage had seen use as the Maryland School of Camera Repairs and as a warehouse for the Gelco Corporation, a distributor for aluminum storm windows, doors, and awnings. In 1958, Malcolm X came to Baltimore to speak and help the nascent temple to raise money and adapt their new building to their needs. On Sunday, June 26, 1960, when Elijah Muhammad spoke at Mosque Six, nearly one thousand people crowded into the building’s main auditorium, another five hundred listened to the speech over a public address system downstairs, and several hundred stood or sat outside the building listening the to speech over outdoor loud speakers.
Within weeks, Minister Isaiah Karriem launched a fundraising campaign seeking $60,000 for the addition of a “gymnasium-recreation center” at the rear of the 300-seat temple. Karriem made the case for the planned addition of a modern athletic facility, saying:
The only way to end juvenile delinquency is to get children in off the streets. We feel that this is a step in that direction.
According to a July 1960 AFRO article on the campaign, the temple consisted of “a business bureau, cafeteria, kitchen, auditorium and minister’s study.” The “spic and span” cafeteria seated one hundred diners and the “spotless” kitchen, directed by Sister Stella X, was “equipped with modern facilities and utensils.” Members had done the work of renovating the building and painting inside and out. Karriem described the temple’s members with pride:
Since embracing Islam, our 3,000 local members have acquired a new sense of responsibility they were unable to obtain in other areas of society. Our members are represented in numerous and varied professions in Baltimore. These include machinists, technicians, real estate dealers, merchants and barbers.
Throughout this period, members of the Nation of Islam were subject to close surveillance by the FBI. For example, in a 1998 Sun article, one early member Nathaniel Karim recalled “being questioned by an FBI agent as he both arrived at and left his first meeting at the mosque in 1953.” In January 1972, members of the mosque confronted two FBI agents in an apartment across the street from the mosque where they had set up for surveillance. When the agents drew their guns, the members called the police who, unaware of the identity of the two men, arrested them both. (The agents were released when they arrived at the station.) Undeterred, the mosque continued to grow during the 1960s. Malcolm X returned to Mosque Six to speak in August 1963 and Minister Louis Omar established the mosque’s University of Islam School in 1969.
Elijah Muhammad’s death in 1975 marked the beginning of a new chapter with significant changes in the community’s approach to religious practice. In 1976, the mosque was renamed Masjid Muhammad and prayer areas and bathrooms were changed to “comply with traditional Islamic practices,” and, in 1978, the University of Islam School became the Sister Clara Muhammad School. Members welcomed Muhammad Ali for a visit to the mosque in 1980 and to a second visit in 1982. In 1994, Masjid Muhammad became Masjid Al Haqq and, in 2003, members worked with the Baltimore Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation to list the building as a local historic landmark.
Masjid Ul-Haqq is a nonprofit organization registered with IRS and state of MD as 501 c.