In his incisive book, Islam in the African American Experience, Richard Brent Turner takes the reader through the evolution of Islam in black America. First, he discusses the "old Islam" brought over with the slaves. Then turner describes how "new Islam" was formed out of Pan-Africanist and Black Nationalistic doctrines of the late nineteenth century. Finally, Turner goes on to talk about different sects of new Islam in the black community. .
Part one of the book is called "Root Sources". In it, Turner comprehensively demonstrates how he believes that, "The new American Islam was deeply influenced by racism in America, by the Pan-African political movement of African Americans in the early twentieth century, and by the historic patterns of racial separation in Islam."(p.67) Turner utilizes Part one to set the stage for the "new Islam" of the twentieth century discussed in part two. .
In the first chapter, titled "Muslims in a Strange Land: American Muslim Slaves in America", Turner describes for the reader the early evolution of Islam among blacks in West Africa. He also describes how that same brand of "old Islam" would follow African Slaves across the Atlantic to the shores of North America. Turner focuses on how Islam spread to West Africa, and how it was adapted and changed by the natives. North African Muslims helped plant the seeds for West African Islam through their encounters with sub-Saharan Africans by way of a slave trade. Often times these Arabs and North Africans would settle in the West African towns, creating an Islamic presence in the town. Natives were generally impressed with their intellect and religious beliefs. One thing that the Muslims offered that caught the attention of the West Africans was a chance to become literate by way of learning Arabic. Later, "teachers and messengers" of Islam would arrive in West Africa. This was a catalyst for the mass conversion of West Africans to Islam.