Category Archives: Louis Gregory

1922

Louis Gregory Elected to the first National Spiritual                     Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the USA

In 1912, during the National Bahá’í Convention attended by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Louis Gregory was elected to the Executive Board of Bahá’í Temple Unity, the governing body in North America at the time.  In 1922 he was elected to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada, which superseded the Executive Board.  Through these positions, Gregory was one of few African Americans elected to national leadership in any interracial organization in the U.S. the first half of the twentieth century.  He served on the National Assembly for fourteen years, and during several elections  he received the highest or second highest number of votes cast.

NSA USA

Photo courtesy of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States

The NSA of the Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada, early 1940s. Seated, L. to R.: Dorothy Baker, Louis Gregory, Leroy Ioas, Amelia Collins. Standing, L. to R.: Siegfried Schopflocher, Roy Wilhelm, Horace Holley, Allen McDaniel, George Latimer.

The photo below was taken roughly around the same time as the election of the NSA in front of Eirenion Hall at Green Acre, Eliot, Maine.

Gregory and others in Maine

Photo courtesy Eliot Baha'i Archives

From left to right:  Horace Holley, Jenabe Fazel, Louis Gregory and Siegfried Schopflocker.  Photo taken circa 1920.
Info courtesy Gayle Morrison, “Louis George Gregory,” Bahá’í Encyclopedia Project, http://www.bahai-encyclopedia-project.org (accessed 17 July 2009).

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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.

church

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.

amityschool

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.

RACENYC

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.

unityclass

(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.

joseph-h-hannen001

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