Bilali Muhammad Almamy was an enslaved African Muslim who lived on Sapelo Island, off the coast of Georgia in the early 19th century. His biography has been reconstructed from his personal writings and other historical documents.
Bilali was originally from the Futa Jallon region of present-day Guinea, where he was a respected leader and Islamic scholar. He was captured and sold into slavery in the late 18th century, eventually ending up on Sapelo Island.
Despite his enslavement, Bilali continued to practice his faith and taught Islam to other enslaved Africans on the island. He wrote a series of Arabic documents, known as the Bilali Document, which included religious texts, personal writings, and instructions for his descendants.
The Bilali Document is a rare surviving example of the writings of an enslaved African Muslim and provides valuable insights into the religious and cultural practices of enslaved Africans in the United States. The document includes prayers, Quranic verses, and other religious texts, as well as information on farming, cooking, and other aspects of daily life on Sapelo Island.
Bilali was known for his wisdom and kindness, and he was respected by both his fellow enslaved Africans and the white slave owners on the island. He was granted certain privileges, including the right to carry a weapon and to leave the plantation to visit other enslaved Africans on nearby islands.
Bilali died on Sapelo Island in the 1850s, but his legacy has lived on. Today, the Sapelo Island community, which includes some of Bilali’s descendants, continues to honor his memory and the legacy of African Muslims who were brought to the United States as enslaved people.