Farrakhan has been the center of much controversy, and critics have, among other things, said that some of his views and comments have been racist, homophobic, and antisemitic. Farrakhan denies these charges, and frequently insists that his controversial comments are taken out of context by critics. Farrakhan currently resides in Kenwood, an affluent neighborhood on the south side of Chicago.
As a child, he received training as a violinist. At the age of six, he was given his first violin and by the age of 13, he had played with the Boston College Orchestra and the Boston Civic Symphony. A year later, he went on to win national competitions, and was one of the first black performers to appear on Ted MackOriginal Amateur Hour, where he also won an award. A central focus of his youth was the Episcopal St. Cyprian's Church in Boston's Roxbury section, a part of Boston which also produced Leonard Bernstein.
In Boston, Walcott attended the prestigious Boston Latin School and English High School, graduating from the latter. He attended college for two years at Winston-Salem State Teachers College, where he went to run track, but left to be with his wife (born Betsy Ross) in Boston who was pregnant with their child. Due to complications from the pregnancy, Walcott dropped out of college to devote time to his wife.
In the 1950s, Walcott became an up-and-coming calypso singer. He recorded several calypso albums under the name "The Charmer."  In 1955, while headlining a show in Chicago entitled "Calypso Follies," he first came in contact with the teachings of the Nation of Islam. A friend from Boston, sometime saxophonist Rodney Smith, introduced him to the NOI's doctrine. He joined the Nation of Islam in July of 1955, becoming Louis X (the "X" being a placeholder for the unknown surname of his slave forefathers, and the Islamic name some Nation members are given later in their conversion).
Thirty days after that, Elijah Muhammad stated that all musicians in the NOI had thirty days from the date of this announcement to give up the music world completely. Farrakhan did so after performing one last time at the Nevel Country Club.
Farrakhan married Khadijah in September 12, 1953. The Farrakhans have been married for 53 years and have a number of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Farrakhan's son Mustapha Farrakhan holds the position of supreme captain of the Nation of Islam.. Mustapha's son, also named Mustapha Farrakhan, is a first-year basketball player at the University of Virginia. He recently caught the eye of the media (including a 2006 ESPN the Magazine article) who were speculating on the impact the shadow of his grandfather's name may have on his sporting career.
Farrakhan announced that he is seriously ill in a September 11, 2006 letter to his staff, Nation of Islam members and supporters. The letter, published on September 11, 2006 in The Final Call newspaper, said that doctors in Cuba discovered an ulcer. According to the letter, subsequent infections caused Farrakhan to lose 35 pounds. He urged the Nation of Islam leadership to carry on while he recovers. 
Farrakhan was released from his five-week hospital stay on January 28, 2007 after major abdominal surgery. The operation was performed to correct severe damage caused by side effects of a radiated seed implantation procedure that he received years earlier to treat prostate cancer. 
Following his hospital stay, Farrakhan released a personal public "Message of Appreciation" to supporters and well wishers  and weeks later delivered the keynote address at the Nation of Islam's annual convention in Detroit. 
Nation of Islam
He had been inspired by Malcolm X and he had accepted a friend's invitation to attend the Nation of Islam's annual Saviours' Day address by Elijah Muhammad. Walcott accepted Elijah Muhammad's teachings that day and was renamed "Louis X."
Adoption of the "X" surname is a tradition within the Nation of Islam. In mathematics, "X" represents an unknown variable. In the purview of the Nation of Islam, followers accept the "X" surname as the rejection of their "slave name". Eventually, the "X" name is replaced by a proper Muslim name more descriptive of the individual's personality and character.
After joining the Nation of Islam, Farrakhan quickly rose through the ranks to become Minister of the Nation of Islam's Boston Mosque. He was appointed Minister of the influential Harlem Mosque and served in that capacity from 1965 to 1975.
In 1977, after wrestling with the changes and consequent dismantling of the NOI structure by Warith Deen Muhammad, Farrakhan walked away from the movement. In a 1990 interview with Emerge magazine, he expressed his disillusionment with the changes and said he decided to "quietly walk away" from the organization rather than cause a schism among the membership. In 1978 with no public notice, Farrakhan and a small number of supporters privately decided to rebuild the original Nation of Islam upon the foundation established by Wallace Fard Muhammad and Elijah Muhammad.
In 1979, the Nation of Islam's newspaper, Muhammad Speaks was reestablished by Farrakhan under the name The Final Call. In 1981, Farrakhan and supporters held the first annual Nation of Islam Saviors' Day convention in Chicago since 1975. At the convention's keynote address, Farrakhan made his first public announcement of the restoration of the Nation of Islam under Elijah Muhammad's teachings. 
On January 12, 1995, Malcolm X's daughter, Qubilah Shabazz, was arrested for conspiracy to assassinate Farrakhan. It was later alleged that the FBI had used a paid informant, Michael Fitzpatrick, to frame Shabazz. After Shabazz's arrest, Farrakhan held a press conference in Chicago in which he accused the FBI of attempting to exacerbate division and conflict between the Nation of Islam and the family of Malcolm X. Nearly four months later, on May 1, U.S. government prosecutors dropped their case against Shabazz.
On May 6, 1995, a packed public meeting in Harlem, New York, termed A New Beginning, featured Louis Farrakhan and Malcolm X's widow, Betty Shabazz. Originally organized by community activists as a fund raiser for Qubilah Shabazz's legal defense, the meeting marked the first public reapprochement between Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam and the Shabazz family.
In a February 2006 AP-AOL "Black Voices" poll, Farrakhan was voted the fifth most important black leader with 4% of the vote.
Though controversial, Farrakhan is widely recognized as electrifying speaker with a powerful allure. In his prime, crowds all around the United States would throng to his speeches for moral uplift and entertainment. His orations typically last up to three hours. His charisma played a significant role in drawing an estimated 837,000 (+/- 20%) people to the Million Man March.
For many years, Farrakhan's statements have sparked debate and controversy. Farrakhan has often insisted that critics take his comments out of context, thereby misrepresenting his beliefs. Religion scholar Mattias Gardell argues that that is at least partly accurate. When considered in the context of Farrakhan's typically lengthy lectures, Gardell argues that many of Farrakhan's controversial comments take on a more nuanced or thoughtful meaning that cannot be conveyed in a sound bite.
Farrakhan has rejected the allegation that he is anti-Semitic and in a June 18 1997 letter to a former Wallstreet Journal editor, Jude Wanniski stated:
Countless times over the years I have explained that I never referred to Judaism as a dirty religion, but, clearly referred to the machinations of those who hide behind the shield of Judaism while using unjust political means to achieve their objectives. This was distilled in the New York tabloids and other media saying, "Farrakhan calls Judaism a gutter religion." As a Muslim, I revere Abraham, Moses, and all the Prophets who Allah (God) sent to the children of Israel. I believe in the scriptures brought by these Prophets and the Laws of Allah (God) as expressed in the Torah. I would never refer to the Revealed Word of Allah (God) -- the basis of Jewish Faith -- as "dirty" or "gutter." You know, Jude, as well as I, that the Revealed Word of Allah (God) comes as a Message from Allah (God) to purify us from our evil that has divided us and caused us to fall into the gutter. Over the centuries, the evils of Christians, Jews and Muslims have dirtied their respective religions. True Faith in the laws and Teaching of Abraham, Jesus and Muhammad is not dirty, but, practices in the name of these religions can be unclean and can cause people to look upon the misrepresented religion as being unclean.
During the 1984 presidential campaign of Jesse Jackson, Jackson referred to New York City as "Hymietown" in a discussion with a black reporter. Though Jackson thought he was speaking off the record, the reporter printed the quote. Jackson was widely criticized for the slur and received death threats, leading Farrakhan to announce, "If you harm this brother, it'll be the last one you ever harm. If you want to defeat him, defeat him at the polls."
In response to Farrakhan's speech, Nathan Pearlmutter, then Chair of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith (ADL) referred to Minister Farrakhan as the new "Black Hitler" and prominent Jewish journalist Nat Hentoff, while a guest on a New York radio talk-show, also characterized the Muslim leader as a "Black Hitler."
In response to the charges of being a "Black Hitler", Farrakhan responded during a March 11, 1984 speech broadcast on a Chicago radio station:
"So I said to the members of the press, 'Why won't you go and look into what we are saying about the threats on Reverend Jackson's life?' Here the Jews don't like Farrakhan and so they call me 'Hitler'. Well that's a good name. Hitler was a very great man. He wasn't great for me as a Black man but he was a great German and he rose Germany up from the ashes of her defeat by the united force of all of Europe and America after the First World War. Yet Hitler took Germany from the ashes and rose her up and made her the greatest fighting machine of the twentieth century, brothers and sisters, and even though Europe and America had deciphered the code that Hitler was using to speak to his chiefs of staff, they still had trouble defeating Hitler even after knowing his plans in advance. Now I'm not proud of Hitler's evil toward Jewish people, but that's a matter of record. He rose Germany up from nothing. Well, in a sense you could say there is a similarity in that we are rising our people up from nothing, but don't compare me with your wicked killers." 
Farrakhan alleges that Jewish distributors blocked his plans for Nation of Islam cosmetics and toiletries sold under the Clean & Fresh label. Major black-hair-care companies, including Johnson Products Co. refused to do business with Farrakhan's Nation of Islam products. Company owner George E. Johnson maintained that his dealers told him that any dealings with Farrakhan's firm would lead to having his own products boycotted. "When I saw that," Farrakhan says, "I recognized that the black man will never be free until we address the relationship between blacks and Jews."
Farrakhan has had friendly relations with leaders of the Neturei Karta, a Jewish group that is well-known for its association with and support for anti-Zionists. Neturei Karta stressed that "Minister Louis Farrakhan is an extraordinary force for good in the Black community. His followers are responsible, industrious, modest and moral. And for this he and they have our respect." 
Cycle of hatred
During Christmas of the same year Farrakhan met with Catholic leaders and rabbis at a gathering in Chicago where he called on all peoples of the world to "end the cycle of hatred".
"Wicked and false Jews"
At an NOI-sponsored event in February 2006, Farrakhan provoked accusations of antisemitism in Illinois by stating that "These false Jews promote the filth of Hollywood. It's the wicked Jews, the false Jews that are promoting lesbianism, homosexuality, [and] Zionists have manipulated Bush and the American government [on the war in Iraq]" 
It seems like being gay or whatever sin you wish to be a part of is okay ... but I have the duty to lift that gay person up to the standard to ask if they want to live the life that God wants them to or live the lifestyle that they want to live." 
Farrakhan's Vision Experience
On October 24, 1989, at a Washington, DC. press conference, Louis Farrakhan described a 1985 vision he had while in Mexico. In his vision, he said he was carried up to "a Wheel, or what you call an unidentified flying object" to a "human built planet" known as the "Mother Wheel" as referenced in the Bible's Book of Ezekiel 1:15-18. During this Vision experience he said he heard the voice of Elijah Muhammad informing him that the President was planning a war and instructed him to "announce their plan and say to the world that you got the information from me, Elijah Muhammad, on the Wheel." Farrakhan concluded that the war was against the people of Libya and Muammar Qaddafi to whom he traveled to warn in February of 1986. The U.S. launched bombing strikes against Libya in April 1986.  He said he later came to realize that the war extended to "an even more significant and consequential war, .. "a war against the black people of America, the Nation of Islam and Louis Farrakhan." 
In a December 1, 2001 letter to President George W. Bush which was made public, Farrakhan disclosed that his Vision experience is what inspired him to "tour the country talking to Black men urging them to stop the killing of one another, and what eventually led to the Million Man March on October 16, 1995."
Louis Farrakhan made several controversial statements about race, including "White people are potential humans — they haven't evolved yet" in March 2000, .
In full context, Farrakhan further expounded by saying, "If you look at the human family -- now, I'm talking about black, brown, red, yellow and white -- we all seem to be frozen on a subhuman level of existence. In Islam and, I believe, in Christian theology and Jewish theology as well, there are three stages of human development. The first stage is called the animalistic stage of development. But when we submit to animal passions, then we can do evil things to one another in that animalistic stage of development. But when moral consciousness comes and we have a self-accusing spirit, it is then that we become human beings. Right now, we have the potential for humanity, but we have not reached that potential, because we are functioning on the animalistic plane of existence." 
 He has also alluded to a figure called "Yacub" (or "Jacob") with reference to whites. According to Farrakhan's mentor, Elijah Muhammad, blacks were "born righteous and turned to unrighteousness," while the white race was "made unrighteous by the god who made them (Mr. Yacub)."
In an interview on NBC's Meet the Press, Farrakhan defended the position that black people are the original people of the earth and clarified that, "It doesn't suggest that we are superior or that you are inferior. Superiority and inferiority is determined by our righteousness and not by our color." In the same interview Farrakhan stated that, "any human being who gives themself over to the doing of evil could be considered a devil".
In comments regarding the decimation of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, Louis Farrakhan stated that there was a 25-foot hole under one of the key levees that failed, and implied that the levee's destruction was a deliberate attempt to wipe out the population of largely black sections within the city. Farrakhan later said that New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin told him of the crater during a meeting in Dallas, Texas.  Farrakhan further claimed the fact that the levee broke the day after Hurricane Katrina is proof that the destruction of the levee was not a natural occurrence. Farrakhan has raised additional questions and has called for federal investigations into the source of the levee break.
These accusations, however, are countered by many experts, including the Independent Levee Investigation Team from the University of California, Berkeley. The findings of this panel are that the overtopping of the levees by flood waters, the often sub-standard materials used to shore up the levees, and the age of the levees contributed to these "scour holes" found at many of the sites of levee breaks after Hurricane Katrina.
On May 20, 2000, Farrakhan publically rejected CBS News' characterization of the interview stating, "It appears that the aim of 60 Minutes, CBS and Mike Wallace was to make the American public believe that I, Louis Farrakhan, ordered the assassination of Malcolm X. It in no way reflected the spirit of Miss Shabazz and myself and our attempt to continue the path of reconciliation started by Dr. Betty Shabazz and me in 1994 and 1995." 
In a June 5, 2000, interview titled 'Setting the Record Straight' with Jet Magazine Farrakhan said "the interview was edited in such a way to give viewers the impression that Farrakhan had a role in Malcolm's death".  Of the full 4 hour interview, CBS edited the broadcast portion down to 12 minutes.
In a February 21, 1990 speech at Malcolm X College in Chicago, IL., Farrakhan gave a presentation on "The Murder of Malcolm X" and the lingering effects of the assassination. 
Other controversial quotes
"The same year they set up the IRS, they set up the FBI. And the same year they set up the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith… It could be a coincidence… [I want] to see black intellectuals free… I want to see them not controlled by members of the Jewish community."
He has also been accused of calling Judaism a "gutter religion," although Farrakhan and his supporters deny this. An article in the NOI's periodical, Final Call, has responded by claiming that Farrakhan instead used the expression "dirty religion," and that "...in Minister Farrakhan’s vocabulary the phrase 'dirty religion' has a particular meaning... 'dirty religion' is the distorted faith which emerges from its manipulation by hypocrites or sinners."
Farrakhan and classical music
When Farrakhan first joined the NOI, he was asked by Elijah Muhammad to put aside his musical career. After 42 years, Farrakhan decided to take up the violin once more, particularly due to the urging of prominent classical musician Sylvia Olden Lee.
On 17 April 1993, Farrakhan made his concert debut with performances of the Violin Concerto in E Minor by Felix Mendelssohn. Farrakhan's assertion that Mendelssohn was a Jewish composer  was widely seen as a response to his critics, such as the Anti-Defamation League, who had charged him with anti-semitism. In fact, Mendelssohn's father renounced the Jewish faith and the family converted to Christianity when Felix was 7 years old. Felix and his siblings were brought up without a religious education.
Reviews were mixed, but some critics agreed that Farrakhan, while not on a par with established solo violin performers, had nonetheless put in a creditable performance. He has gone on to perform the Violin Concerto of Ludwig van Beethoven and has announced plans to perform those of Tchaikovsky and Brahms.
Muhammad, Jabril, Closing The Gap: Inner Views of the Heart, Mind & Soul of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, FCN Publishing Co. (2006) ISBN 978-1-929594-99-3
Gardell, Mattias, In the Name of Elijah Mohammed: Louis Farrakhan and The Nation of Islam, Duke University Press (1996) ISBN 978-0-8223-1845-3