#98 – 100 Years Ago – ‘Abdu’l-Bahá speaks at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Part 1 of 2.

23 April, 1912, Tuesday, Washington, D.C.: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá made a talk at Howard University, one of the foremost black universities. He was introduced by the President of the University  as “the prophet of peace and the herald of love and prosperity.”  “Well over a thousand students, faculty members, administrators, and guests jammed Rankin Chapel where ‘Abdu’l-Bahá presented His memorable address at Howard University. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá dwelt upon the need for love and unity between the white and black races and spoke of the gratitude which the colored people  should feel for the whites,  because. through them came not only freedom for their race, but it was the beginning of freedom for all slaves. He also told them that through education the differences between the two races would be lessened.  (#4, p. 40; #6,p. 29)

Re: Howard University: Founded in 1867 to educate newly freed slaves, Howard University was by 1912 one of the foremost black universities in the country. Since this was an era of segregation in America society, the students were all African Americans.   #6, p. 29, Footnote 43 (talk can be found in Promulgation of  Universal Peace, pp. 44-46).

Joseph Hannen records: “On Tuesday, April 23rd, at noon, Abdu’l-Bahá addressed the student-body of more than 1,000, the faculty and a large number of distinguished guests, at Howard University.  This was a most notable occasion, and here, as everywhere when both white and colored people were present, Abdu’l-Bahá seemed happiest. The address was received with breathless attention by the vast audience, and was followed by a positive ovation and a recall.” (Hannen, “Abdu’l-Bahá in Washington, D.C.” p. 7. #6, p. 29, Footnote 44

“Abdu’l-Bahá spoke often of unity during those first days in America, in New York and then in Washington, D.C. . . . But it was in the capital on 23 April, with Louis Gregory at His side, that He first confronted—both in public addresses and in a social context—the issue of racial unity. Indeed, the Washington Bee, a black newspaper, called attention to the relationship between ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Louis Gregory in an article it published concerning   ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s visit:

………… Joseph Hannen records: “On Tuesday, April 23rd, at noon, Abdu’l-Bahá addressed the student-body of more than 1,000, the faculty and a large number of distinguished guests, at Howard University.  This was a most notable occasion, and here, as everywhere when both white and colored people were present, Abdu’l-Bahá seemed happiest. The address was received with breathless attention by the vast audience, and was followed by a positive ovation and a recall.” (Hannen, “Abdu’l-Bahá in Washington, D.C.” p. 7. #6, p. 29, Footnote 44

“Abdu’l-Bahá spoke often of unity during those first days in America, in New York and then in Washington, D.C. . . . But it was in the capital on 23 April, with Louis Gregory at His side, that He first confronted—both in public addresses and in a social context—the issue of racial unity. Indeed, the Washington Bee, a black newspaper, called attention to the relationship between ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Louis Gregory in an article it published concerning ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s visit:

 “Abdul Baha Abbas, the leader of the Baha movement for the world-wide religious unity, has been in the city. Through the missionary work of Mrs. Christian D. Hemick (Mrs. A. C. Barney that was), quite a colony of colored Bahaists has been developed in Washington, and these earnest disciples gave their patron  saint an especially warm reception. On Tuesday evening the venerable prophet addressed a large audience at  Metropolitan 

A. M. E. Church, in connection  with the Bethel Literary Society. At noon Tuesday, [the] Abdul spoke to the students of Howard University. the principal advocate of the Bahai faith in this city is Mr. Louis C. [sic] Gregory, a brilliant young lawyer and government official, whose zeal in the work was so absorbing that he made a comprehensive tour of Egypt and the Holy Land to study at first hand the  history and philosophy of this remarkable cult. . .”

“Mr. Gregory undoubtedly had been instrumental in arranging for these two major speaking engagements, as he was an alumnus of Howard University’s law school, had been for years a leader in the Bethel Literary and Historical  Association, and had arranged a number of Bahá’í meetings under its sponsorship. In the Howard speech ‘Abdu’l-Bahá stated unequivocally that color is of no importance either before God or in any of the kingdoms of existence—animal, vegetable, or mineral—except as an ‘adornment,’ a source of ‘charm.’ Only among human beings has it been a cause of discord. He was happy,  He declared, to see whites and blacks together in the meeting as a step toward unity, ‘for the accomplishment of unity between the colored and whites will be an assurance of the world’s peace. Then racial prejudice, national prejudice, limited patriotism and religious bias will pass away and remain no longer.” (Footnote 8 – Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 41-43.)

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About bahaitravelswest

Researcher Bahá'í history.
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