The following excerpted article is from bahaiworld.bahai.org. Content ©2021 Bahá’í International Community.
Photo: The second Bahá’í race amity convention in America, held in the auditorium of Central High School, Springfield, Massachusetts, 5-6 December 1921
BY RICHARD THOMAS
This is the first of two articles focusing on the American Bahá’í community’s efforts to bring about racial unity. This first article is a historical survey of nine decades of earnest striving and struggle in the cause of justice. A second article, to be published in the future, will focus on the profound developments in the Bahá’í world over the past twenty-five years, beginning with 1996, and explore their implications for addressing racial injustice today and in the years to come.
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Once again, as the United States finds itself embroiled in racial conflicts and decades-old struggles for racial justice and racial unity, the Bahá’í community of the United States stands ready to contribute its share to the healing of the nation’s racial wounds. Neither the current racial crisis nor the current awakening is unique. Sadly, the United States has been here before.1 The American people have learned many lessons but have also forgotten other lessons about how best to solve the underlying problems facing their racially polarized society. For decades the country has seen countless efforts by brave and courageous individuals and dedicated organizations and institutions to hold back the relentless tide of racism. Many of these efforts have achieved great outcomes, but the tide has repeatedly rushed back in to test the resolve of every generation after the fall of Reconstruction, the Civil Rights Movement, and the historic election of the first African American president.2
During some of America’s worst racial crises, the Bahá’í community has joined the gallant struggle not only to hold back the tide of racism but also to build a multiracial community based on the recognition of the organic unity of the human race. Inspired by this spiritual and moral principle, the Bahá’í community, though relatively small in number and resources, has, for well over a century, sought ways to contribute to the nation’s efforts to achieve racial justice and racial unity. This has been a work in progress, humbly shared with others. It is an ongoing endeavor, one the Bahá’í community recognizes as “a long and thorny path beset with pitfalls.”3