Dizzy Gillespie Becomes Bahá’í

At the age of 51, Dizzy Gillespie, a major figure in the development of bebop and modern jazz, joined the Bahá’í Faith.

“Becoming a Baha’i changed my life in every way and gave me a new concept of the relationship between God and his fellow man – man and his family.” -Dizzie Gillespie


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

Info courtesy of NSA of the Baha’is of the US


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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.


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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The NSA of the Bahá’ís of the US Inaugurate Race Unity Day

IN 1957, The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States designated the second sunday in June as Race Unity Day.  The purpose of Race Unity Day is to promote racial harmony and understanding and to focus attention on racial prejudice, which Bahá’ís believe is the most challenging moral issue facing our nation.  Since then, communities throughout the country have held celebrations, open to the public, every year on the second Sunday in June.


Blount County’s 2009 Race Unity Day Celebration, Photo Courtesy of http://www.thedailytimes.com

Bahá’ís Celebrate Negro History Week

Negro History Bulletin 21 (1 Oct. 1957) reports:”Bahá’ís Report Successful Nationwide Negro History Week Observance”.  Started in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, Negro History Week was the precursor to Black History Month.

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Sweatt v. Painter Successfully Challenges the Separate but Equal Doctrine of Racial Segregation

Heman Sweatt

Heman Sweatt, Image Courtesy of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States

Heman Marion Sweatt was an African-American Bahá’í from Houston, Texas who was refused admission to the University of Texas School of Law at Austin in 1946 on the grounds that the Texas State Constitution prohibited integrated education.

Mr. Thurgood Marshall, then a top lawyer for the NAACP, took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court’s affirmative ruling in 1950 on Mr. Sweatt’s case helped lead to the end of ‘official’ racial discrimination in public schools and was a precursor for Brown v. Board of Education. Mr. Marshall wrote to Heman Sweatt, “If it had not been for your courage and your refusal to be swayed by others, this victory would not have been possible.”

A commemorative plaque in honor of Mr. Sweatt outside the District Court room in the Court House where the decision was made denying Mr. Sweatt permission to enroll in the Law School.

Court House Display

Image courtesy the Baha'is of Austin, Texas

On October October 21, 2005, the Travis County Court House in Austin, TX was renamed after Mr. Sweatt.


Image courtesy the Baha'is of Austin, TX

Info courtesy Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweatt_v._Painter) and the official website for the Baha’is of the US (http://www.bahai.us/Sweatt)

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The Bahá’í International Community Presents Declaration of Human Obligations and Rights to the UN

In February of 1947 members of the Baha’i community presented this declaration to the first session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Lake Success, NY, U.S.A.

“The source of human rights is the endowment of qualities, virtues and powers which God has bestowed upon mankind without discrimination of sex, race, creed or nation. To fulfill the possibilities of this divine endowment is the purpose of human existence.”


Photo Courtesy of the Bahá'í International Community

Shown above are Bahá’í representatives Ugo Giachery and Mildred Mottahedeh (third row from back, looking at the camera) at an early UN conference in Geneva, in May 1948.


Image Courtesy of the Baha'i International Community

Bahá’í delegation to the United Nations International Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations. (L to R) Amin Banani, Mildred R. Mottahedeh, Hilda Yen and Matthew Bullock; Lake Success, NY, USA; 4-9 April 1949.

The Bahá’í International Community (BIC)  is now an international NGO with offices at the United Nations in New York, Geneva, and Brussels.  Throughout the last 60 years, the BIC has worked to uphold the rights of women, children, minorities and indigenous populations and has been active in UN debates and efforts to uphold economic, social and cultural rights.  Statements such as Combating Racism (1983), Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities (1995), and Impact of Racism on Women (2001), can be found at the BIC website.


Image Courtesy of the Baha'i International Community

This is a photo of Bahá’í delegates from 18 countries who attended the March 13, 2009 UN Commission on the Status of Women (New York).

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Robert Hayden Becomes Bahá’í

Robert Hayden was an internationally recognized poet and the first African American to be appointed Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress  (1976-now known as Poet Laureate). His best-known poem dealing with Black history is “Middle Passage.


The Bahá’í Faith had a great influence on Hayden’s worldview and work.  He said,  “I believe in the essential oneness of all people and I believe in the basic unity of all religions. I don’t believe races are important; I think that people are important.”

(source http://www.bahai.us/robert-hayden)

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First Race Unity Committee Founded

The National Spiritual Assembly founded the first Race Unity committee in 1939, a committee designed to support and assist in organizing race unity events across the country.  A five member committee, Dorothy Baker, a white woman, came to have an instrumental role in the committee’s affairs.   Historian Richard Thomas explains that “the committee stressed the role of education and culture, thereby giving parents recommendations for educating their children in the spirit of racial equality and encouraging all to acquaint themselves with African-American culture.”

Dorothy Baker

Dorothy Baker (R) and her daughter. Photo courtesy Eliot Baha'i Archives.

Source: Racial Unity: An Imperative for Social Progress by Richard W. Thomas

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