FOUNDED BY BEN AND JENNIE ISMAEL
ie:THE BEN ISMAEL TRIBE
EYM JUST GONNA LEAVE THIS FOR THOSE WHO REALLY WANT TO GROW WITH THIS TRUTH. THE BEN ISHMAEL WAS A NOMADIC GROUP OF RUNAWAY SLAVES, POOR WHITES AND DISPLACED NATIVE AMERICANS FROM MULTIPLE TRIBES. THEY ARE A RESULT OF THE EUGENICS MOVEMENT. THEY ARE THE EXAMPLE OF WHAT HAPPENS TO MONGRALS. A HUSBAND AND WIFE STARTED THE TRIBE AND CHOSE AN ISLAMIC MOTIF BASED ON THEIR OWN BELIEFS. THEY LEARNED THEIR CULTURE FROM THE PAWNEE INDIANS. THE TERM MOOR WAS ATTACHED TO THEM AS A XENONYM, (An exonym or xenonym is an external name for a geographical place, group of people, or language/dialect: a common name used only outside the place, group or linguistic community in question, usually for historical reasons.)
AND ONCE AGAIN AS EYE DEMONSTRATED THE NANTICOKE NO LONGER CALL THEMSELVES MOORS. THEY ARE NANTICOKE LENAPE AND HAVE SINCE RETURNED TO THEIR TRIBAL IDENTITY.
The Tribe of Ben Ishmael
Founded by Ben & Jennie Ishmael
A group of freed and escaped slaves, poor white indentured servants and Native Americans
Originated in Noble County, Kentucky (Now Bourbon County)
Later migrated to Indianapolis, Indiana then to Cincinnati, Ohio
It would be Ben and Jennie’s eldest son John who would ultimately move the tribe to Indiana. It is rumored that Ben and Jennie retired to the wilderness before their deaths.
Practiced a nomadic, hunter-gatherer lifestyle influenced by the local Pawnee Indians
Believed that land could not be owned and that property should be moveable. (They constructed movable houses)
Scholars debate the role Islam may have played on influencing this group, but I believe that the evidence, albeit lacking in specific admissions of Islamic identity seem interesting enough for discussion. This group utilized a restricted practice of polygyny, did not affiliate with any known church, abstained from alcohol and travelled nomadically between 3 cities with Islamic names. I share the story of this group to inspire us all to research our ancestors so that we can fill in the gaps in our own history as well as American history. There are persons who outright deny the possibility of Islamic/Semitic/Arabic influence on any persons or aspects of the history of America and that is just not possible. The magnitude of influence is really the only question, but without scholarly research and us researching our own family histories and stories
They lived far from settled communities and were forced out of inhabited lands. When Kentucky farmlands became slave-farms, they moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. From Cincinnati they were driven out, tracing a settlement pattern through Indiana and finally to various small towns in Illinois (mostly southern parts). Cities like Mahomet, Mecca, Morocco and Cairo bear the names of some of these settlements.
This is a map of the their annual migratory route
The Tribe of Ben Ishmael is even mentioned in Fenimore Cooper’s 1872 novel The Prairie as the family of a man called Ishmael Bush [though the tribe is “mostly” white in the book].
“Their origins are inexact, but they are said to have been fugitives from slavery and the “Indian Wars” from various points in Tennessee, the Carolinas, Virginia, and Maryland, all seeking asylum and converging in Kentucky. Such as explanation suggests that they did not represent splintering branches of previously formed transracial groups in the Southeast (such as the Melungeons), but that the community as a transracial, transcultural project developed in Kentucky itself.”
“When Noble Drew Ali left Newark for Chicago in 1925 he gave as his reason the opinion that the Midwest was ‘closer to Islam.’ He might have been referring to the “Egyptian” Shriners- but he also might have meant the Ishmaels or both. An Ishmael woman with the delightful nomadic name Mrs. Gallivant passed down a tradition that Ishmaelites were among Drew Ali’s first converts in the area.”
Nobel Drew Ali is the founder of the Moorish Science Temple of America. If you are unfamiliar with the Moorish Science Temple it is an Islamically-influenced movement that became popular in the mid to late 1900s in America.
No matter what the extent of their Islamic influence there are historical references to the Tribe of Ben Ishmael even though it lacks a detailed documented history. Almost all historical references to this group disappear around the same time that forced sterilization laws went into effect in Indiana in 1907 for the “degenerates of society”. Oscar Carleton McCulloch 1843-1891, a pro-Eugenics supporter wrote a pamphlet on the Tribe that suggested forcible sterilization and incarceration for their members. The pamphlet, published in 1880, was only the second in the United States applying Eugenic science on a population.
Works cited and consulted:
Deutsch, Nathaniel. Inventing America’s “worst” Family: Eugenics, Islam, and the Fall and Rise of the Tribe of Ishmael. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009.Gomez, Michael A. Black Crescent: The Experience and Legacy of African Muslims in the Americas. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
McCulloch, Oscar C. The Tribe of Ishmael: A Study in Social Degradation. Indianapolis: Charity Organization Society, 1889.
Sakolsky, Ronald B, and James Koehnline. Gone to Croatan: Origins of North American Dropout Culture. New York: Autonomedia, 1993.Wilson, Peter L. Sacred Drift: Essays on the Margins of Islam. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1993.