Originally known simply as the Organization, it arose in the 1970s as reformed New York City gang members began to organize cultural events for youths, combining local dance and music movements into what would become known as the various elements of hip hop culture. By the 1980s, hip hop had spread globally, and the Zulu Nation has since established (autonomous) branches in Japan, France, Germany, UK, Australia, Poland and South Korea.
The Zulu Nation has undergone changes over the past decade. From the late 1980s, at the height of the Afrocentric movement in hip hop (when artists such as KRS-One, Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, the Native Tongues, and Rakim hit success), the movement seemed to be incorporating many doctrines from the Nation of Islam, the Nation of Gods and Earths, and the Nuwaubians. In the 2000s, however, its official Web site affirmed that the Zulu Nation has left the 15 Beliefs and instead adheres to Factology versus Beliefs, a religious philosophy and doctrine in Nuwaubianism.
The imagery of the Zulu Nation has changed considerably as well. During the 1970s, and 1980s, Afrika Bambaataa and the Zulu Nation members would often clothe themselves in costumes representing different cultures of the world. These costumes were seen as symbols for the Zulu Nation's desire to help others regardless of nationality or skin color and also to symbolize people who were generally peaceful and good until they were oppressed by those who were not. Normal members, including whites and Latinos, would often wear necklaces or shirts depicting an outline of the African continent or a crude tribal drawing of a man's face. This was a symbol of the Zulu nations of Africa, from which the organization got its name. Nowadays, however, these things have been replaced by Egyptian symbols such as ankhs and pagan jewelry depicting pentagrams.
There have been many offshoots to The Zulu Nation, most notable are: Ill Crew Universal (most directly linked to Zulu) , Hip Hop Congress , The Temple Of Hiphop , Hip Hop Caucus. The Student Hip Hop Organization, Project Hip Hop, Hip Hop for Health, Hip Hop Coalition and many more. These organizations have varied areas of focus but none would exist with the Universal Zulu Nation paving the way.