EATONTOWN, GA — On May 8, 2002, FBI agents arrested Dwight York — aka Malachi Z, Chief Black Thunder Eagle, and Yaanuwn the Extra-Terrestrial — for fraud, racketeering, and 116 counts of sexually abusing dozens of children whose parents worshipped him as their one true God.
The bust happened outside of a grocery store, just a few miles away from Tama-Re — a sprawling, pyramid-studded village in rural Georgia that York founded and oversaw as the leader of the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors. He deemed the elaborately dressed-up community the “Egypt of the West.”
The Nuwaubians, as York’s followers called themselves, initially arose out of Brooklyn’s Bushwick area in 1970. The cult centered on York’s fiery charisma and his theatrical preaching that combined Black supremacy, orthodox Islam, and African Judaism with the era’s popular radical politics, especially regarding race relations.
In time, Nuwaubian dogma would go on to include UFO theology, Native American co-optation, and the visual trappings of the Nile in the time of the pharaohs.
All the while, though, former believers would later testify that Dwight York amassed money, power, property, and control to serve one primary purpose: his own relentless and nightmarishly spiraling pedophilia.
Born in 1945, Dwight York got probation at age 19 after pleading guilty to the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl — a harbinger of bad things to come.
A subsequent 1965 bust for assault led to two years in prison, after which York converted to Islam and joined the Black Panther Party. By the decade’s end, York had formed his own sect and changed the group’s core beliefs (as well as his name) numerous times before settling on the Nuwaubian philosophy.
Two constants carried through every shift, though: White people were enemy descendants of the devil, and York was “the Supreme Being … God in the Flesh.”
Even topping out at about 500 core members worldwide, the Nuwaubians thrived throughout the 1970s and ’80s. York grew rich and, according to members who later testified against him, sexually abused scores of female devotees and their underage daughters.
Eventually, the accusers said, York molested girls and boys alike, and his victims consistently got younger, with some being just four and five years old.
None of this seemed evident to the outside world, however. The Nuwaubians may have come off as odd or even intimidating, but they escaped legal scrutiny until 1993, when police received an anonymous letter detailing York’s rampant abuse.
That same year, York spent $975,000 on a 473-acre ranch in Putnam County, Georgia, that he declared would become “Tama-Re,” a sovereign Nuwaubian nation with its own borders, its own tax system, and its own laws beyond the reach of the United States. The feds would later prove otherwise.
When the Nuwaubians first landed in Georgia, York and his acolytes dressed in full cowboy garb. Observers still don’t know if that choice was the group’s attempt to fit in with what they believed was how Southerners dressed or if it was a parody of that same concept.
After a few years — and a foray into donning Native American headdresses and calling himself “Chief Black Thunder Eagle” — York settled on the ancient Egyptian theme.
Nuwaubians strolled around in costumes styled after King Tut and Cleopatra, and their workers constructed obelisks, a Sphinx, and two 40-foot pyramids on the property that were visible from miles around.
As the 1990s progressed, York told the cult he was not just God, but “Yaanuwn,” an alien visitor from a distant planet called “Rizq.” UFO lore became essential to Nuwaubian culture.
At the same time, York recorded a number of music albums and opened an unlicensed nightclub on the compound called Ramses.
When local law enforcement shut Ramses down in 1999, Reverend Al Sharpton traveled from New York to lead a rally on York’s behalf. All legal charges were quickly dropped.
The following year, Reverend Jesse Jackson visited Tama-Re and assured Nuwaubians they were “living the American dream.”
The FBI, meanwhile, had been looking for some way to build a case against Wright. But the agency first became aware of potential criminal activity, including child rape, at the height of public outcry over botched governmental raids at Ruby Ridge and the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas.
Concerned, then, about another potential boondoggle — and one that might further be complicated by racial issues — the FBI moved carefully, methodically, and slowly. Tragically, York reportedly violated myriad more children during the process.
The feds’ focused investigation into sex-abuse claims commenced in 1998 and finally came to fruition four years later.
On that day in May 2002, while officers put cuffs on York in town, tactical agents stormed Tama-Re and liberated “50 to 75 children” who were being kept inside the cult leader’s private residence. Searchers also turned up illegal weapons, hidden cash, and piles of further evidence against the supposed Supreme Being.
In addition to the sexual atrocities, York faced a heap of charges for fraud and violations of the RICO act. On the positive side, once York was taken into custody, dozens of his victims came forward to tell their stories. His own son would even testify against him to hugely damning effect.
York entered a guilty plea on the condition that, as an “indigenous person,” he get transferred to the Moors Cherokee Council for trial. The judge tossed that notion out in a hurry.
In 2004, York was convicted on a vast array of charges. He is presently serving 135 years in federal prison and is confined to his cell 23 hours a day. York has exhausted all his potential appeals. He is 73 years old.
For more on Dwight York, watch “The Nuwaubian Nation of Moors” episode of Investigation Discovery’s People Magazine Investigates: Cults on ID GO now!
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Main photo: Dwight York/People Magazine Investigates ID video [screenshot]