239 Days in America, Day 206: November 02, 1912 | Chicago
To Remind Us We Were Neighbors 1
“I NEVER QUITE RECOVERED from the shock and pain of my first bitter realization that to be a colored woman is to be discredited, mistrusted and often meanly hated,” she said, writing of her first experience in America’s South.
She, Fannie Barrier Williams, was an African American teacher, journalist, and social activist, one of the key founders of the Frederick Douglass Center, a settlement house that served Chicago’s African American population. On Saturday, November 2, 1912, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke at the center, located about five blocks west of Lake Michigan at 2032 South Wabash Street.
The Journey East: Chicago, Cincinnati, Washington, D.C., Baltimore 2
At an interracial meeting on Saturday [November 2], He [‘Abdu’l-Bahá] said, “‘A man who seeks piety is virtuous, whether he puts on a black garment or one of white,’” Later He went to Mrs. Corinne True’s home where the friends were assembled for a “board of consultation” meeting and told them, “‘The first duty of the members of such a board would be to have love and unity among themselves. If there is no unity and it turns out to be a cause of disunion, its nonexistence is better.’”
The Chicago Inter-Ocean, on November 2, in an article titled “HEAD OF BAHAI RELIGION IN CHICAGO FOR LECTURES: Persian Prophet Urges World-Wide Peace—Temple Planned for This City,” noted:
Abdul Baha Abbas, Persian prophet and head of the Bahai religion, arrive in Chicago yesterday for a series of three lectures on universal peace and to complete plans for the building of a Bahai temple near this city. …
Praise be to God that now the doors of the Kingdom are open, the sun of truth is resplendent and casting its rays upon all, the cloud of mercy is bestowing the utmost favors and the sea of bounty is surging 3
Great numbers of people came to see the Master and each in turn was ushered into His private room. Most of the friends, both old and new, brought their children to be blessed by Him. He embraced each of them with the utmost kindness, anointed them with some attar of rose and gave them fruit, sweets and flowers.
When the crowd became too large He went to the hall of the hotel and spoke to the guests about the aims and intentions of the Manifestations of God:
The divine religions were revealed for love and amity and have brought about harmony among the different peoples and nations. But as time passed dogmas and imitations crept in and caused differences and enmity. Praise be to God that now the doors of the Kingdom are open, the sun of truth is resplendent and casting its rays upon all, the cloud of mercy is bestowing the utmost favors and the sea of bounty is surging. Know then the value of this bestowal and the worth of these days.
He was invited to have lunch at the home of Mrs Russell. Among the guests were some of Dr [Susan I.] Moody’s relatives. Addressing them ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said:
Behold how the power of Bahá’u’lláh has connected the hearts and has joined the East and the West. When Dr Moody first went to Tihrán she did not know the Persians and they, too, did not know her at all. But the moment they heard of her intended journey from America to Persia, hundreds prepared to receive her with utmost love. With great esteem they welcomed her in Tihrán. All the friends are now like brothers and sisters to her – even more than that and kinder. She is well-known as a Bahá’í in Tihrán and is respected and loved within and without the community.
In the evening the Master gave an impressive talk at a gathering of blacks. Many white people were also present. He spoke on love and brotherhood among the different races and nationalities. He talked about Isfandíyár, the black servant of the Blessed Beauty, referring to his faithfulness, obedience and goodness of heart, saying: ‘If a believer in God prays for piety, it does not matter whether he is robed in black or white.’ Both black and white were affected by His words and came one after the other to shake His hand and express their gratitude for His blessings.
He then went to Mrs True’s home where the friends had gathered for consultation. They asked Him about the duties of a board of consultation. He said:
The first duty of the members is to be in harmony and unity among themselves, for this will bear good results. If there is no unity or – God forbid! – if it becomes the cause of differences, then of course its non-existence is better than its existence. If Assemblies of consultation or the general meetings of the friends become the cause of ill feelings, they must be abandoned.
How pleased I was with the believers in California who said, ‘We do not want any board of consultation because it would lead to striving for leadership and power and will become the cause of differences. Now, praise be to God!, we are serving as much as we can, having no other thought than the diffusion of the divine fragrances.’
Then, when the unity of the members has been achieved, their second duty is to recite verses and prayers in a state of contriteness and spiritual awareness so that they will feel themselves to be in the presence of God.
Third, their thoughts and discussions must be directed to the teaching of the Cause of God in all areas and regions. They must arise with all their strength for this great matter and make the necessary arrangements and prepare for the teaching of the Cause.
Fourth, they must be occupied and concerned with rendering help to the poor, the needy and the sick.
Fifth, they must improve and administer the affairs of the believers and other matters.
The Master spoke on similar topics and the meeting concluded in an extraordinary spirit of happiness among the friends.
1 November 1912, Talk at Home of Mrs. Corinne True, 5338 Kenmore Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 4
When this Cause appeared in the Orient, the friends and followers were self-sacrificing to the utmost, forfeiting everything. It is a significant and wonderful fact that, although the most precious thing on earth is life, yet twenty thousand people offered themselves willingly in the pathway of martyrdom. Recently, in Yazd two hundred of the Bahá’í friends were cruelly slain. They went to the place of martyrdom in the utmost ecstasy of attraction, smiling with joy and gratitude upon their persecutors. Some of them offered sweetmeats to their executioners, saying, “Taste of this in order that with sweetness and enjoyment you may bestow upon us the blessed cup of martyrdom.” Among these beloved and glorified ones were a number of women who were subjected to the most cruel manner of execution. Some were cut to pieces; and their executioners, not content with such butchery, set others on fire, and their bodies were consumed. Throughout these terrible ordeals not a single soul among the Bahá’í friends objected or recanted. They offered no resistance, although the Bahá’ís in that city were most courageous and strong. In physical strength and fortitude one of these Bahá’ís could have withstood many of their enemies, but they accepted martyrdom in the spirit of complete resignation and nonresistance. Many of them died, crying out, “O Lord! Forgive them; they know not what they do. If they knew, they would not commit this wrong.” In the throes of martyrdom they willingly offered all they possessed in this life.
- Jones, Caitlin Shayda. “To Remind Us We Were Neighbors.” 239 Days in America, 2 Nov. 2012, https://239days.com/2012/11/02/to-remind-us-we-were-neighbors/. [return]
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 177-178. [return]
- ’Abdu’l-Bahá, and Mirza Mahmud-i-Zarqani. Mahmúd’s Diary: The Diary of Mírzá Mahmúd-i-Zarqání Chronicling ’Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey to America. Edited by Shirley Macias. Translated by Mohi Sobhani. Oxford: George Ronald, 1998. https://bahai-library.com/zarqani_mahmuds_diary&chapter=9#section224 [return]
- ʻAbduʼl-Bahá. The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by ʻAbduʼl-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912. Edited by Howard MacNutt. 2nd ed. Wilmette, Ill: Baháʼí Publishing Trust, 1982, 384. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/28#591629258 [return]