Category Archives: D.C. Bahá'í History

1963

The First Universal House of Justice

The principle of unity in diversity is reflected throughout the worldwide Bahá’í community.  The first Universal House of Justice (UHJ), the supreme governing institution of the Bahá’í Faith, was elected in 1963 by delegates from 56 National Spiritual Assemblies. The nine members chosen that year by secret ballot came from four continents, represented three major religious backgrounds (Jewish, Christian, and Muslim), and were of several different ethnic origins.  One of the members elected at this time was Amoz Gibson, a Black Bahá’í from the U.S.

Members_of_the_first_Universal_House_of_Justice,_elected_in_1963

Photo Courtesy of the Bahá'í International Community

(L to R) Charles Wolcott, Amoz E. Gibson, Hushmand Fatheazam, Hugh E. Chance, H. Borrah Kavelin, Ian C. Semple, Lutfu’llah Hakim, David Hofman, Ali Nakhjavani

Amoz Gibson became an active member of the Washington D.C. Bahá’í Community in 1946.  He was elected to the Local Spiritual Assembly of Washington D.C. and served as treasurer and later as chairman.  He was also on regional committees and was elected as national convention delegate.  In 1959, Gibson was appointed to the Auxiliary Board for protection; and in 1960, he was elected to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States.  He served and traveled all over the world, including the Navajo reservation in Arizona and New Mexico, Uganda, Holland, France, Italy, Mexico and Iran.

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Filed under Civil Rights Era, D.C. Bahá'í History, Universal House of Justice

1921

May 21, 1921:                                      First Race Amity Dinner

“Convention for Amity Between the Colored and White Races Based on Heavenly Teachings”

During the Jim Crow era, when there were few examples of interracial gathering for the purpose of race unity, the first Race Amity Convention was organized by Agnes S. Parsons, a wealthy white woman prominent in Washington, D.C. society.  Ms. Parsons organized the conference at the request of ‘Abdu’l-Baha after her visit with him during pilgrimage in Haifa in 1920.  For assistance planning the event, Agnes called upon Louis Gregory and Alain Locke, pictured below.

first amity conference planners

The convention was held in the Old First Congregational Church in Washington D.C. (10th and G, NW) and about 1500 people attended.  Alain Locke served as the session chair on Friday evening, May 21.  The Howard University chorus performed and Joseph Douglas, the grandson of abolitionist Frederick Douglas, performed on the violin.

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Old First Congregational Church

Ongoing Race Amity Conventions

The second Race Amity Convention was held December 5-6, 1921.  It was held at the Central High School auditorium in Springfield, Massachusetts and an estimated 1200 participated.  Alain Locke participated in the planning but was not in attendance at this particular conference.

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Race Amity Convention, Central High School Auditorium

The American Baha’i community continued to organize Race Amity gatherings for decades.  Below is a Race Amity Meeting organized by the New York Bahá’í Assembly and the New York Urban League in New York City sometime in 1930.

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Reprinted with permission of the Bahá’í International Community

During these gatherings children would also be integrated, as evidenced by this photo of an “Inter-Racial Amity Children’s Hour” taken April 29, 1928.

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(Info and photos courtesy Christopher Buck.)

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Filed under Alain Locke, D.C. Bahá'í History, Louis Gregory, NYC Bahá'í History, Race Amity Convention

1909

June 1909- Louis Gregory Joins the Bahá’í Faith

Louis Gregory’s education at the Avery Institute and Normal School (now Avery Research Center), Fisk University, and Howard University’s School of Law established him as one of the “Talented Tenth,” W.E.B. DuBois’ term for the capable, educated African Americans of the time.

Louis Gregory

Louis Gregory, Reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community

Gregory first learned about the Bahá’í Faith in 1907 through a Southern white couple,  Joseph and Pauline Hannen, who showed Gregory sincere love and respect born out of their own religious faith.

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Pauline and Joseph Hannen, pictured with Pauline's sister (right). Image courtesy National Bahá’í Archives, United States

Abdu’l-Bahá wrote in 1909 in reply to Gregory’s first letter to Him, “I hope that thou mayest become . . . the means whereby the white and colored people shall close their eyes to racial differences and behold the reality of humanity.”

On September 27, 1912, Louis Gregory married a white English Baha’i, Louisa (Louise) A. M. Mathew.  It was the first interracial marriage in the American Bahá’í community and a tremendously significant act, considering that interracial marriage was still illegal in 17 states as recent as the 1960’s.  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá encouraged the marriage, telling Gregory, “If you have any influence to get the races to intermarry, it will be very valuable”

louis gregory

Image courtesy of the NSA of the Baha'is of the United States

Gregory holds an esteemed place in Bahá’í history for many reasons, including his election to the first National Spiritual Assembly of the US (1922) and his appointment posthumously as Hand of the Cause of God by Shoghi Effendi (1951).

Information gleaned from Gayle Morrison, “Louis George Gregory,” Bahá’í Encyclopedia Project, http://www.bahai-encyclopedia-project.org (accessed 18 July 2009).

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Filed under D.C. Bahá'í History, Early Believers, Louis Gregory