Twenty-one years ago, on the National Mall, Louis Farrakhan rose to speak to the largest gathering of African Americans in history. Flanked by a crowd of young men in navy-blue uniforms, Farrakhan looked out at the Million Man March, a sea of black humanity that stretched from the Capitol to the Washington Monument. The people had gathered at a time of profound suffering for black America. The fire of the civil-rights movement had burned out; the hope and progress of the 1960s had turned to cynicism and regression. The march had been conceived as part of the great legacy of black protest against injustice. And yet, curiously, when Farrakhan addressed the crowd, he spoke of atonement: that October day, he suggested, was a day to ask forgiveness.