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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(Info and photos courtesy Christopher Buck.)