In Memory of Ahmad Rahman
Hoping to attend college after high school, he became a leader in the Black Panther Party instead. In 1968 he was set-up in an FBI sting, falsely accused of a crime he did not commit, and convicted of murder. While serving a life sentence, he converted to Islam and was elected Imam among the prison’s Muslims. He also began taking classes offered through Wayne State University, becoming the first Michigan inmate ever to receive an undergraduate degree. Thereafter, he was accepted into the Ph.D. program at the University of Michigan, where he received his doctorate in African history, as well as a gubernatorial pardon after serving 22 years of his sentence.
He soon joined the faculty at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, where he taught African and African American history, and was recognized in 2013 as Michigan’s College Professor of the Year. He also served as director of the African/African American Studies (AAAS) program, and was deeply engaged with the Detroit Public Schools. An internationally recognized scholar on the Pan-Africanist, Kwame Nkrumah, he was invited in 2009 by the government of Ghana to return to his ancestral homeland and participate in the official centennial celebrations commemorating Nkrumah’s birth and subsequent life as the President of West Africa’s first independent state.
Aside from his charismatic personality, keen sense of ironic humor, and intellectual brilliance, Ahmad is remembered for his honest pursuit of truth, uncompromising integrity, and generosity of spirit. He is survived by his four children, Rahman, Saidah, Sundiata, and Askia, as well as by the many students, colleagues, and friends whose lives he enriched by his presence.
In Ahmad’s own invariable words of farewell: “Peace and Justice.”
Remembering Ahmad Rahman
Dr. Ahmad Rahman (associate professor of history) was a great leader at UM-Dearborn, and a passionate Civil Rights activist. He passed away September 21, 2015 at the age of 64.
We remember Dr. Rahman in these articles and video clips.
Ahmad Rahman picked up his first history textbook and sifted through a couple pages. A few more chapters and Rahman was hooked.
“It never seemed like work for me to learn history when I was a teenager,” he said. “History was always my hobby.”
Over the past decade, Rahman has injected that same sense of passion into the classroom at University of Michigan-Dearborn.
History professor and activist Ahmad Rahman is remembered for challenging assumptions in the classroom and community.
Tim: Very sad to hear. Of all the instructors I have ever had, Dr. Rahman was my favorite. What a great man he was.
Vincent: Your Warrior spirit will always dwell inside your Brothers and Sisters who will always remember you and continue the work to create a higher humanity. Shujaa my Brother! The Struggle Continues!
Katrina: I will forever remember the long talks that myself and my office mate would have with Rahman. For nearly 20 years, he would make impromptu visits to our office on the Ann Arbor campus, and we would laugh (a lot), be engaged, and challenge each other. Those were wonderful times. I never tired of those surprise visits. My condolences to his family. You are in my thoughts and prayers.
Mike: I am so sorry to hear about Prof. Rahman's passing. I will mourn him & remember him in my prayers.
Laura: I was fortunate enough to have Prof. Rahman one semester. He definitely was passionate for the subject and always very personable. I know the UM-Dearborn campus will surely miss him. I will, too. Keeping his family in my thoughts and prayers during this time.
M: I am shocked to learn of Professor Rahman's passing. He remains one of most influential people, not only educator, that shaped my world view. I was looking forward to visiting him on campus with my young children, only to learn of his passing. A huge loss to the UM-Dearborn family and students everywhere. May he find peace eternal.
Saleemah: Dr. Rahman was such an honorable and intelligent man. I had the privilege of taking one of his history classes and, although I thought I knew a great deal about the subject, I was introduced to his depth of knowledge -- from a well-studied and real-life perspective. He enlightened us passionately, gauged us to be open-minded by incorporating a national and global aspect to our lessons, and he did it with challenging discussion and great humor. It is such a loss to our school, to students who deliberately sought awareness, and is especially a loss to the African American student population who desperately search for such a distinguished professor as Dr. Rahman. I can truly say that we will miss him terribly and I pray so sincerely for his family. RIP, Dr. Rahman, and thank you for being a hero to our community and to me personally. Your dynamic influence and actions will always be treasured.
This article (published January 2021) provides a compelling glimpse into what a remarkable and multifaceted man he was, and the impact he had on the lives of so many others.
Madeleine L’Engle’s Private Correspondence With Ahmad Rahman
Named for the late acclaimed author Madeleine L’Engle and her 10-year written friendship with scholar, writer and former Black Party leader Ahmad Rahman, the PEN America/L’Engle Rahman Prize for Mentorship honors four mentor/mentee pairs in PEN America’s longstanding prison writing mentorship program, which links established writers with those currently incarcerated.
The prize was generously endowed by L’Engle’s family and memorializes L’Engle’s participation as one of the program’s very first mentors, along with Rahman’s extraordinary journey from serving 21 years in prison—framed in an FBI sting of the Panthers—to celebrated and beloved assistant professor of African and African-American History at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. The pair began writing in the early 1970s, establishing a rigorous working rapport that informed both of their works.
In April 2008, Professor Ahmad Rahman discussed civil rights, African independence, and French immigrant movements with Chancellor Daniel Little
Remarks from his "Celebration of Life and Legacy"
Dr. Ahmad Rahman Memorial Scholarship
In his memory, a scholarship was created. Your gift provides aid to our future leaders majoring or minoring in African and African American Studies.