By: Floria Pirnia-Sanai
Abdul-Baha- One of the pillars of the Baha’i Faith is the equality of all races, basically the belief that there is only one race, “The Human Race”. We would like to share a few of these documented views of Abdul’Baha (1844 –1921), the eldest son of the Baha’i Faith founder, Baha’u’llah, and his successor.
He devoted His ministry to furthering His Father’s Faith and to promoting the ideals of peace and unity. In his Journey Across America, in 1912, he brought the message of equality among people and the fact that without unity, peace and justice cannot be achieved. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was most uncompromising on the issue of racial equality during his visit to America. There are documented notes mentioning the fact that in the darkest days of America’s segregation laws, particularly in Washington D.C., he was a strong voice for African Americans and the rising of inequality and injustice he observed at the time of his visit. We would like to share some of these notes with you:
- Upon the news of his arriving in America, people from all corners of America would come to visit him wherever he was settling in. He would receive and meet with all genders, races, and social classes. Holding these racially integrated meetings wasn’t easy, as no hotels would allow such a meeting (Agnes Parson’s Diary, ©1996, Kalimát Press, Footnote #15).
- In late May 1912, in New York, Abdu’l-Bahá was evicted from His hotel because his visitors were from such diverse backgrounds (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 111)
- On one occasion He shocked some of the white socialites by insisting that Louis Gregory ( African American lawyer and the first African American Baha’i) be seated next to him at a society luncheon (Agnes Parson’s Diary, p 31,33)
- At another time, Abdul’Baha hosted a unity Feast and insisted that both black and white sit side-by-side in a previously segregated hotel (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 110)
- With this one stroke, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá swept away both segregation by race and categorization by social rank (Gayle Morrison, To Move the World, Louis G. Gregory and the Advancement of Racial Unity in America, p 53, 5)
- He found racial differences a thing of beauty. He was happiest at meetings where both white and black people were present. (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 100)
- Though most of Abdul’Baha's time was spent with the rich, famous, and white people (as they had sponsored his trips), he gave special attention to their black servants, treating them no differently than their employers.
- He gave special addresses to audiences of black people (Earl Redman, Abdul-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 161)
- He encouraged the first inter-racial Baha’i marriage of its kind, between Louis Gregory African American lawyer who became a leading Baha’i speaker, writer, administrator, and proponent of race unity and equality and Louisa Mathews, (a white British woman) (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 112)
- He later expressed that Abdul’Baha brought to attention the depth and depravity of the conditions of blacks in Washington, D.C. that he, Louis Gregory himself was not aware of some of the maltreatments.