Bahá'í Faith in the United States

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Bahá'í House of Worship, Wilmette, Illinois.

The Bahá'í Faith was first mentioned in the United States in 1893 at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago.[1] Soon after, early American converts began embracing the new religion. Thornton Chase was the most prominent among the first American Baha'is and made important contributions to early activities.[2] One of the first Bahá'í institutions in the U.S. was established in Chicago and called the Bahá'í Temple Unity, incorporated in 1909 to facilitate the establishment of the first Bahá'í House of Worship in the West, which was eventually built in Wilmette, Illinois and dedicated in 1953.[3]

`Abdu'l-Bahá, head of the Bahá'í Faith after his father (Baha'u'llah, founder of the Faith) passed away in 1892, visited the United States and Canada in 1912, ultimately reaching some 40 cities from April to December. He spread his father's teachings and consolidated the fledgling western Bahá'í community.[4] After returning from his journey, `Abdu'l-Bahá continued corresponding with American Bahá'ís, eventually addressing to them a series of letters, or tablets, charging the believers with the task of spreading the religion worldwide. These letters were compiled together in the book Tablets of the Divine Plan.[5] After `Abdu'l-Bahá's death in 1921, his grandson Shoghi Effendi became the Guardian of the religion, and continued to encourage and direct the efforts of the American Bahá'í community. In 1925, the first National Spiritual Assembly of the United States was formed in conjunction with the Bahá'ís of Canada. In 1936, Shoghi Effendi asked believers to begin the systematic implementation of `Abdu'l-Bahá's vision of teaching the Faith worldwide, calling for American pioneers to assist in establishing Bahá'í communities in the republics of Latin America.[6] Later coordinated efforts, such as the Ten Year Crusade from 1953-63, would see American pioneers sent to a wide variety of locations around the globe.[7]

In 1944, it was reported that every state in the United States now had at least one Local Spiritual Assembly, and the national Bahá'í population was estimated at 4,800.[8] As of 2011, official estimates had risen to 175,000 Bahá'ís in the 48 contiguous states,[9] with some external estimates as high as 525,000.[10]

Early mentions[edit]

The first mention of events related to the history of the religion in the United States appears to be the 1845-6 echo of the Nov 1845 London Times story relating events of the Báb upon return from pilgrimage, whom Bahá'ís hold as a direct precursor akin to the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus.[11] In America this was printed in April 1846 in the Boon Lick Times based on an article in the NY Mirror.[12] A mention in 1850 followed.[13] The first academic paper on the religion was a letter written to the American Oriental Society which was holding its meeting in Boston and the library of materials was held at the Boston Athenæum.[14] The letter was originally published as part of the minutes of the Society in The Literary World of June 14, 1851,[15] as an untitled entry whose first quote is "notice of a singular character, who has for some years past played a prominent part on the stage of Persian life" dated February 10, 1851 by Dr. Rev. Austin H. Wright.[16]:3, 10, 73, 528 It was subsequently also published in a Vermont newspaper June 26, 1851.[17] In 1893 Rev. Henry Harris Jessup addressed the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago with the first mention the Bahá'í Faith itself in the United States - and published in the Chicago Inter Ocean[1] and manuscript.[18] Anton Haddad, the first Bahá'í to come to America was already in the country.[19][20]

First community[edit]

Following Haddad, Ibrahim George Kheiralla came to the US and settled in New York where he began trying to teaching "Truth Seeker" classes.[19] He visited Charles Augustus Briggs and others, as well as the Syrian community in New York however in 1894 Kheiralla moved on to Chicago following the interest fostered by the World's Columbian Exposition's World Parliament of Religions.[19] One of the early converts while Kheiralla was in Chicago was Thornton Chase, who had read the presentation about the Bahá'ís at the Exposition, and is generally considered the first Bahá'í convert in the West. Other individuals had converted, but none remained members of the religion. Later students of Kheiralla's included Howard MacNutt, who would later compile The Promulgation of Universal Peace, a prominent collection of the addresses of `Abdu'l-Bahá during his journeys in America. Both men were designated as "Disciples of `Abdu'l-Bahá" and "Heralds of the Covenant" by Shoghi Effendi.[21]:p122 Another student of the classes and Disciple was Lua Getsinger, designated as the "mother teacher of the West".[21]:p177 Another who "passed" the class and joined the religion was the maverick Honoré Jackson.[19] Kheiralla moved once again, to Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 1895, where a large Bahá'í community soon developed.[21]:p218

In 1898, Kheiralla undertook a Bahá'í pilgrimage to Palestine to meet `Abdu'l-Bahá with other American pilgrims, including Phoebe Hearst, Lua Getsinger and joined by May Boles.[22][23][24] Kheiralla began making claims of independent leadership and `Abdu'l-Bahá sent, first, Anton Haddad with a letter contesting the definition of leadership, then Khieralla's initial teacher of the religion, `Abdu'l-Karím-i-Tihrání, to confront him.[19] The conflict made the newspapers.[25] Ultimately unwilling to follow the leadership of `Abdu'l-Bahá, he was declared a Covenant-breaker.[21]:p218[26]

Green Acre[edit]

The Inn at Green Acre, in Eliot, Maine.

Meanwhile, to the east, Sarah Farmer had founded Green Acre following the enthusiasm of the same Parliament as a summer center of cross-religion gatherings and cultural development.[27] She had success attracting investors, most especially Phoebe Hearst,[27]:p.193 but by the end of 1899 things were in crisis. According to scholar Eric Leigh Schmidt various people involved were trying to take Green Acre in various directions and threatened the shutdown of the programs[27]:pp.199–200[28][29] Creditors were nervous,[30] and her business partners had thought to force Farmer to sell out.[31] While her partners were seeking to meet with her, Farmer was a guest already aboard the SS Fürst Bismarck[32] the first week of January 1900.[33] During the voyage Farmer and Wilson met friends and learned they were on the way to see `Abdu'l-Bahá and were asked to come along.[32] Wilson was dubious but eventually the ladies changed their plans and went along.[34]:pp.28,32 before leaving for Haifa March 23, 1900.[34]:p.29 After converting to the religion on meeting `Abdu'l-Bahá Farmer returned to America and began settings plans for the 1901 session at Green Acre.[35] Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl, among the most scholarly trained Bahá'ís of the time, accompanied Anton Haddad returning to America and arrived for the 1901 season.[36][37]:p.80[38] Ali Kuli Khan, to serve as his translator, arrived in the United States in June.[39] They had been sent by `Abdu'l-Bahá.[38] The later well known Bahá'í Agnes Baldwin Alexander, later appointed to a high office of the religion, was also there.[40] Out of this the community of Bahá'ís began to form in Boston. Farmer and `Abdu'l-Bahá began an active exchange of letters some twenty-plus of his which were gathered and printed initially in 1909 and then the third edition in 1919.[34]:p.38[41]

Continued development[edit]

That America went through a Civil War and achieved progress toward an emancipation of its black people is pointed at by `Abdu'l-Bahá in 1912 as a basis of encouraging respect for America in its support for humanitarian and altruistic ideals.[42] An appeal to the US for humanitarian interest goes as far back as 1867 when Bahá'ís wrote a petition to the US Congress because it held no attachment to the present oppressive conditions in Persia.[43] Bahá'u'lláh did himself address the "Rulers of America and the Presidents of the Republics" saying in part "Bind ye the broken with the hands of justice, and crush the oppressor who flourisheth with the rod of the commandments of your Lord…." Bahá'ís also used diplomatic means to seek redress or relief. When the American community was only at most roughly 2000[44], in 1901 American Bahá'ís approached then US Ambassador to Iran Herbert W. Bowen in Paris concerning the situation of Bahá'ís in Persia.[45] As an example, even an American diplomat was murdered in 1924 by a mob on suspicion of being a Bahá'í intervening in a local matter.[46][47]

In 1906 a government census reported through a scholar that there were 1280 Bahá'ís in 24 places among 14 states.[48] Early Bahá'ís in this period included reformers and artists like Stanwood Cobb, Louis G. Gregory, and Juliet Thompson. Laura Clifford Barney interviewed `Abdu'l-Bahá on several teachings of the religion resulting in the early publication Some Answered Questions. The Bahá'í Temple Unity was incorporated in Chicago at a national convention in 1909 to facilitate the establishment of the first Bahá'í House of Worship in the West; 39 delegates from 36 cities attended.[3] Star of the West was the first large periodical production in the country beginning in March, 1910. Thornton Chase scholar Robert Stockman underscores Chase' importance as an early North American Bahá'í thinker, publicist, administrator, and organizer who is still under appreciated, that "He is perhaps the only person (in America) before 1912 who had a thorough understanding of the Bahá'í concept of consultation." Chase was the prime mover behind many of the Chicago's early institutional activities and in many ways his sudden death left a gap in the North American Bahá'í community that remained unfilled until the rise to prominence in the early 1920s of Horace Holley, the chief developer of Bahá'í organization in the United States and Canada.[2]

`Abdu'l-Bahá, while head of the religion, visited the United States and Canada, ultimately visiting some 40 cities, to once again spread his father's teachings.[4] He arrived in New York City on 11 April 1912. While he spent most of his time in New York, he visited many cities on the east coast. Then in August he started a more extensive journey across America to the West coast before returning east at the end of October. On 5 December 1912 he set sail back to Europe from New York.[49] During his nine months in North America, he met with many well known people as well as hundreds of American and Canadian Bahá'ís who were recent converts to the religion.[50] Accomplishments during the trip include setting examples of the core values of the religion - unity of humanity, and gender equality. First he demonstrated an advanced race-consciousness by glorifying diversity and black individuals on multiple occasions when racial segregation in the United States was the usual practice.[51] And second, extending the progress of the equality of women and men. During his stay in America the lead all-male assembly was dissolved in favor of an integrated one of women and men.[52]

After his return to Palestine in 1913, `Abdu'l-Bahá mentioned various lands around the world in which the religion should be introduced, predicted the imminence of World War I, and elaborated the qualities of those who seek to serve the religion. This guidance took the form of a series of letters, or tablets, to the followers of the religion in the United States in 1916-1917; these letters were compiled together in the book Tablets of the Divine Plan. They were translated and presented on April 4, 1919 in New York City, and published in Star of the West on December 12, 1919.[5] Urbain Ledoux also joined the religion about this time.[53] The world-wide activity of Martha Root, who circled the globe three times teaching the Faith, was catalyzed by these Tablets.

`Abdu'l-Bahá died in November 1921. In his will he appointed his grandson Shoghi Effendi as the Guardian and leader of the religion. A few in America questioned the appointment as early as 1926.[54] Another division occurred because many were attracted to the personality of `Abdu'l-Bahá and saw the religion as an ecumenical society to which all persons of goodwill—regardless of religion—might join. When Shoghi Effendi made clear the position that the Bahá'í Faith was an independent religion with its own distinct administration through local and national spiritual assemblies, a few felt that he had overstepped the bounds of his authority; some who actively and continuously caused disunity were expelled by Shoghi Effendi as Covenant-breakers.[21]:p325 All of the divisions in this period were short-lived and restricted in their influence, for the most part failing to last beyond the lives of their initial dissidents.[55]

Systematic development[edit]

While the first Bahá'í House of Worship of the Americas began taking form in Chicago, national institutional development of the religion shifted to Green Acre for some decades. The Star of the West was replaced with the Bahá'í News in 1924 and supplemented by the magazine World Order in 1935. The first National Spiritual Assembly was elected in 1925 after years of increasing organizational development. See Statistics on National Spiritual Assemblies. Individuals in a number of social situations joined the religion - Alain LeRoy Locke, James Ferdinand Morton Jr., Robert Sengstacke Abbott, Helen Elsie Austin, and Nancy Douglas Bowditch. Additionally, two more institutions were established like Green Acre: the Geyserville school that later moved to become the Bosch Bahá'í School and the Louhelen Bahá'í School.

Shoghi Effendi, head of the religion after the death of `Abdu'l-Bahá, wrote a cable on May 1, 1936 to the Bahá'í Annual Convention of the United States and Canada, and asked for the systematic implementation of `Abdu'l-Bahá's vision to begin.[6] In his cable he wrote:

Appeal to assembled delegates ponder historic appeal voiced by `Abdu'l-Bahá in Tablets of the Divine Plan. Urge earnest deliberation with incoming National Assembly to insure its complete fulfillment. First century of Bahá'í Era drawing to a close. Humanity entering outer fringes most perilous stage its existence. Opportunities of present hour unimaginably precious. Would to God every State within American Republic and every Republic in American continent might ere termination of this glorious century embrace the light of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh and establish structural basis of His World Order.[56]

Following the May 1 cable, another cable from Shoghi Effendi came on May 19 calling for permanent pioneers to be established in all the countries of South American and the Caribbean.[6] The 1936 religious census conducted by the United States government reported 2,584 Bahá'ís and by 1944 every state in the nation had at least one local Bahá'í administrative body called a Spiritual Assembly, and a population of about 4,800 Bahá'ís was reported.[8] During that period the Bahá'í National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada appointed the Inter-America Committee to take charge of the preparations for international pioneers. In the fall, amidst the rebuilding of the economy in the Great Depression and the build up to World War II a special collection and printing of the scriptural guidance to America was given to President Franklin Roosevelt, "that these utterances may, in this hour of grave crisis, bring to him comfort, encouragement and strength."[57] During the 1937 Bahá'í North American Convention, Shoghi Effendi cabled advising the convention to prolong their deliberations to permit the delegates and the National Assembly to consult on a plan that would enable Bahá'ís to go to Latin America as well as to include the completion of the outer structure of the Bahá'í House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois. In 1937 the First Seven Year Plan (1937–44), an international plan designed by Shoghi Effendi, gave the American Bahá'ís the goal of establishing the Bahá'í Faith in every country in Latin America. In 1937 there was essentially no presence of the religion from Central America south,[6] and eleven states and provinces in the US and Canada had no Bahá'ís at all; thirty‑four lacked spiritual assemblies.[58] In 1938 Bahá'í communities and Local Spiritual Assemblies began to form across Latin America with the spread of American Bahá'ís, while inside the United States individuals like Guy Murchie, Robert Hayden, Robert B. Powers, joined the religion and others who were raised in the religion achieved increasing levels of service in it like Marion Holley and Dorothy Beecher Baker or otherwise became more well known in the world like Bernard Leach, Carole Lombard, Barbara Hale, Lois Hall and William Sears. In April 1953 the Bahá'í House of Worship (Wilmette, Illinois) was formally dedicated.[59]

Up to 1944, delegates to the national convention were selected based on local assemblies - in 1944 they were elected on the basis of statewide regional conventions of Bahá'ís.[60] In 1947, at a time when the Bahá'ís number approaching 5000 in America,[44] Bahá'í students at the University of Chicago participated in a demonstration against the segregation and discrimination based on race for medical treatment of students on campus.[61][62][63] In 1955 American Bahá'ís and institutions spoke up following the destruction of a Bahá'í center of worship in Iran.[64]

Later coordinated efforts, such as the Ten Year Crusade, would see American pioneers sent to a wide variety of locations around the globe,[7] such as Africa, some parts of eastern Asia, parts of Oceania/Polynesia filling out the list of first Bahá'ís to settle in a country via the Knights of Bahá'u'lláh, as well as among its own Native Americans populations. As a result the cultural norms in the Bahá'í Faith went through major transitions.[65] The first occurred at about the turn of the 20th century when the religion became known beyond its mainly Muslim Middle-Eastern population and spread to Christian North America and Europe. The second major breakthrough started post-World War II when the religion began to spread rapidly in the villages of the Third World. A stated purpose for the coordinating committees appointed to oversee the process was to facilitate a shift in the balance of roles from North American leading guidance and Latin cooperation to Latin leading guidance and North American cooperation.[66] The process was well underway by 1950 and was to be enforced about 1953. In Africa it was emphasized that western pioneers be self-effacing and focus their efforts not on the colonial leadership but on the native Africans[67] - and that the pioneers must show by actions the sincerity of their sense of service to the Africans in bringing the religion and then the Africans who understand their new religion are to be given freedom to rise up and spread the religion according to their own sensibilities and the pioneers to disperse or step into the background.[67] Similar practices were undertake by Australians arriving in Papua New Guinea.[68] Unlike the spread of Christianity within Indian country in the United States, the Bahá'í Faith has never been associated with a fortification of colonial occupation, Euro-American assimilation, or forced conversions of Native Americans. Indeed in 1960 Hand of the Cause Rúhíyyih Khánum asked for forgiveness for the injustices her race had done and praised their great past.[69] And in 1963 anthropologist Alice Beck Kehoe, a well known researcher of Native Americans, observed that "[The Bahá'í Faith] does not deny the validity of native Indian beliefs, [and]...appeals to many Indians who are seeking a religion that is neither exclusively Indian nor dominated by white values and customs,"[69] though while the religion was growing the challenge of broadening respect also continued to be a point of engagement.[69]

Shoghi Effendi had died November 4, 1957, without explicitly appointing a successor,[21]:pp169–170 however he had appointed Hands of the Cause, individuals of highly distinguished service to the religion.[70] He began by appointing some posthumously - from the United States so appointed were Keith Ransom-Kehler (1876–1933), Martha Root (1872–1939), Roy C. Wilhelm (1875–1951) and Louis George Gregory (1874–1951.) Americans living for their appointments included, in order of their appointment waves, (from 1951) Dorothy Beecher Baker (1898–1954), Amelia Engelder Collins (1873–1962), Horace Hotchkiss Holley (1887–1960), Leroy C. Ioas (1896–1965), Charles Mason Remey (1874–1974); (from 1952) Corinne Knight True (1861–1961); (in 1957) Agnes Baldwin Alexander (1875–1971) and William Sears (1911–1992). They, along with the Hands appointed from other lands, on November 25, signed a unanimous proclamation organizing the community to fulfilling his goals. Among these were:

  • "That the entire body of the Hands of the Cause, ... shall determine when and how the International Bahá'í Council shall pass through the successive stages outlined by Shoghi Effendi culminating in the election of the Universal House of Justice"
  • "That the authority to expel violators from the Faith shall be vested in the body of nine Hands (The Custodians), acting on reports and recommendations submitted by Hands from their respective continents."

Upon the election of the Universal House of Justice at the culmination of the Ten Year Crusade in 1963, the nine Hands acting as interim head of the religion closed their office.[21]:pp175–177 The world community celebrated the election at the first Bahá'í World Congress. There was another attempt at a division contesting the lack of another Guardian but it also failed to be sustained.[55] Bahá'ís in the United States numbered almost 7,000 by 1956. By 1963 membership exceeded 10,000, and were increasing by about 1,200 per year.[58]

In the midst of the period leading directly to the election Bahá'ís in Morocco had organized their first assembly and begun to suffer persecution.[71][72][73] In 1963 the arrest of Bahá'ís in Morocco had gotten attention from King Hassan II of Morocco, US Senator Kenneth B. Keating[74] and Roger Nash Baldwin, then Chairman of the International League for the Rights of Man.[72] On March 31, 1963 during a visit to the United States and the United Nations, King Hasan was interviewed on television on Meet the Press, then with Lawrence E. Spivak, and was asked about the treatment of Bahá'ís in his own country.[75] He addressed the audience saying that the Bahá'í Faith was not a religion and "against good order and also morals". However, on April 2 he makes a public statement that if the Supreme Court confirms the penalty of death that he would grant them a royal pardon. However, on November 23 the Supreme Court heard the appeals and reversed the decision of the lower court. On December 13 the prisoners were actually released.[72]

In 1964 a project developed among the Bahá'ís supporting race unity - the same period as the Freedom Summer campaign - with connections at Louhelen and the burgeoning Bahá'í community of Greenville South Carolina. School integration was going to happen that Fall. Training sessions for a project were noted in the Bahá'í News in August at Louhelen.[76] Some 80 youth attended the training in mid-June and some 26 faculty and staff. After the classes in various subjects 27 went to 8 locations: Greenville, SC, Atlanta, GA, locations in MN, NM, AZ, MI and DC.[77] Six youth went to Greenville, SC, under the sponsorship of their local assembly for a 6 week program joined by five local youth.[78]:2m38s They worked on tutoring some 55 blacks students about to attend newly integrating schools, rural proclamation of the religion, and human rights activities focused on the black minority.[77] The work was capped with a parent-teacher banquet reception at a church and a picnic for the students conducted by the Bahá'í teachers. Firesides were held widely in rural areas around Greenville which featured singing, and the group supported petitioning for the public swimming pool being integrated.[79][80] In 1965 Bahá'ís participated in the Selma to Montgomery marches and arranged for telegrams according to the June issue of Bahá'í News.[81] The National Assembly telegrammed the US President and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Eight Bahá'ís including two from Montgomery are documented to have participated.

The news in 1971 was that the national count of Bahá'ís had doubled -[82] The Christian Century noted that in a "one-month, 13-county 'teaching conference' based in Dillon, South Carolina, 9,000 converts, most of them black, joined the Baha'i faith (sic), with hundreds more signing declaration cards in similar efforts throughout the south."[82] The state with the single largest Bahá'í population was now South Carolina.[44]:153, 193

At around 77,000 members in America,[44] in 1982 Bahá'ís testified before a Congress subcommittee on the situation in Iran following the Islamic revolution[83] and this was followed up a couple years later,[84] and again in 1988.[85]

Meanwhile the accelerated growth of the worldwide community in the 1960s-1980s yielded a challenge for the social and economic development of communities. According to the Bahá'í teachings, development should increase people's self-reliance, communal solidarity, giving access to knowledge, and, where possible, removing sources of injustice. Spiritual, moral and material development should be linked together.[86] These priorities are envisioned as crucial to the development of world peace. The religion entered a new phase of activity when a message of the Universal House of Justice dated 20 October 1983 was released.[87] The Office of Social and Economic Development was established[88] and Bahá'ís were urged to seek out ways, compatible with the Bahá'í teachings, in which they could become involved in the social and economic development of the communities in which they lived. Worldwide in 1979 there were 129 officially recognized Bahá'í socioeconomic development projects. By 1987, the number of officially recognized development projects had increased to 1482.[87] The Americas as a total held a significant percentage of these.[89] Some examples in the United States:

  • In 1984 the Center for Interracial Understanding was established in the summer of 1984 at Louhelen.[90]
  • Another project called a residential college, was founded at Louhelen in September 1985,[90] and was part of its conception.[91] :-42:20 It was announced in March 1986 it was accepting applications for the September 1986 enrollment combining formal study of the religion with a degree earning study at one or two nearby colleges. Students would live and work at the school, receive training, and go to one of these schools.[90]
  • A temporary effort was that of Tucson Bahá'ís aid for 1985 Mexico City earthquake,[92] as there was during and following Hurricane Hugo.[93]
  • Another programs was for youth called the Bahá'í Youth Workshop founded by Oscar DeGruy in 1974,[94] that had groups organize and perform variously in the United States.[95]
  • 1996 was the beginning of the implementation of the Multi-Racial Unity Living Experience(MRULE) project[96] by Richard Thomas and Jeanne Gazel at Michigan State University,[97] in the wake of the OJ Simpson murder case in Oct 1995.[98]:4m16s:2m5s Thomas was approached by then provost Lou Anna Simon of MSU[98]:26m to have a means of resolving racial tensions in the midst of increasing diversity on campus.
  • The Tahirih Justice Center was founded in 1997 for individuals seeking protection from human rights abuses.[99]

Modern community[edit]

Percent of population of US counties that adhere to the Bahá'í Faith.

In December 1999, the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States stated that out of approximately 140,000 adult (15 and over) members on the rolls, only 70,000 had known addresses,[100] and another estimate was of 137,000 plus Iranian refugees.[44] Nearly 17 percent of US Bahá'ís still reported still being international pioneers, while some 35 percent indicated homefront pioneering experience inside the United States to places the religion had not previously had a presence.[58] The American Religious Identity Survey (ARIS) conducted in 2001, with a sample size of 50,000, estimated that there were 84,000 self-identifying adult (21 and over) Bahá'ís in the United States.[101] The Association of Religion Data Archives estimated there were some 525,000 Bahá'ís in 2005[10] however internal counts in Feb 2011 show 175,000[9] excluding Alaska and Hawai'i.

With developmental roots back into the 19th century,[102] the Ruhi Institute, an educational institution initially operating under the guidance of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'í Faith in Colombia but has been applied in the United States and studied.[103] The goal is of involving more individuals in study leading to action. A focus of the Institute is to couple an evolving appreciation of virtues with processes of community development. After some decades of development, Bahá'í leadership adopted it as a key component of the evolving nature of Bahá'í life.

Although a majority of Americans are Christians, Bahá'ís make up the second-largest religious group in South Carolina as of May 2014.[104] And based on data from 2010, Bahá'ís were the largest minority religion in 80 counties out of the 3143 counties in the country.[105] From the same 2010 data set, the largest populations of Bahá'ís at the county-by-county level are in Los Angeles, CA, Palm Beach, FL, Harris County, TX, and Cook County, IL.[106] However on a basis relative to the local population the highest relative density is in South Carolina and Bennett County, SD, especially near the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Indian Reservations, and Georgia.

While early fictional works relating the religion occurred in Europe a number of them have appeared in the United States since the 1980s, sometimes in mass media - see Bahá'í Faith in fiction.

Major centres[edit]

Greater Boston[edit]

The Bahá'í Faith in Greater Boston, a combined statistical area, has had glimpses of the religion in the 19th century arising to its first community of religionists at the turn of the century. Early newspapers on the precursor Bábí religion[107] were followed by a paper by Dr. Rev. Austin H. Wright[108][16]:3–4, 10, 73, 528 as an untitled entry whose first quote is "notice of a singular character, who has for some years past played a prominent part on the stage of Persian life" dated February 10, 1851. It is considered the first paper giving an account on Bábism. Circa 1900 the community began to coalesce being near to Green Acre.[109][32] From then on the institution would progressively be associated with Bahá'ís - a place where both locals and people from afar came to learn of the religion, and who officially took over controlling interest from 1913.[110] Leaders rising to national prominence with a national level of organization soon arose after `Abdu'l-Bahá, then head of the religion, traveled through the area. Most prominent were from the area were Harlan Ober, William Henry Randall, and Alfred E. Lunt.[111] Broadening recognitions of the community sometimes took the form of publicly noting their persecution in Morocco[112] and then Iran,[113] and presence in local concerts and fairs.[114] In 1988 the national assembly of the United States picked Boston among its four foci for expansion of the religion and a conference of some 800 Bahá'ís gathered.[44]:193–195, 242–245 The modern community, albeit a tiny fraction of the wider population, is present in some concentrations and thin areas throughout the greater Boston area.[115] Over the last couple decades, it has been systematically pursuing programs of neighborhood community building activities of study circles, children's classes, junior youth groups, and devotional meetings among the activities and observances of the religion.

South Carolina[edit]

The Bahá'í Faith in South Carolina begins in the transition from Jim Crow to the Civil Rights movement but defines another approach to the problem, and proceeded according to its teachings. The first mention in relation to the history of the religion came in the 1860s in a newspaper article. Following this the first individual from South Carolina to find the religion was Louis Gregory in 1909, followed by individuals inside the state. Communities of Bahá'ís were soon operating in North Augusta, Columbia and Greenville struggled with segregation culture through the 1950s externally and internally. However, in the 1969-1973 period, a very remarkable and somewhat unsustainable period of conversions to the religion on the basis of a meeting of Christian and Bahá'í religious ideas established a basis of community across several counties - notably Marion, Williamsburg, and Dillon, served by the Louis Gregory Institute and its radio station WLGI but also across the wider area. That community continues and has gathered news coverage as part of the second largest religion in South Carolina.

Alaska[edit]

Alaska is unusual in that it is not an independent nation, recognized by the United Nations, and yet has a National Spiritual Assembly. Its specific statistics are not published, and are often not broken out in non-Bahá'í statistics of the USA in general. There are currently about 1500 Bahá'ís in Alaska.

Hawai'i[edit]

The Bahá'í community in Hawai'i had its origins when Hawaiian-born Agnes Alexander, who became a Bahá'í in Paris in 1900, returned to the islands in 1901. Similar to Alaska, the Bahá'ís of Hawai'i have an independent National Spiritual Assembly from that of the USA, though it is itself one of the 50 United States. Independent statistics have not been published.

Notable American Bahá'ís[edit]

Outside the religion in general society prominent Bahá'ís have been social and civic leaders Alain LeRoy Locke, Patricia Locke, Dorothy Wright Nelson and Layli Miller-Muro, entertainers Seals and Crofts, Dizzy Gillespie, Rainn Wilson, Andy Grammar and among academics Suheil Bushrui, and Dwight W. Allen. See List of Bahá'ís for many other Bahá'ís that have Wikipedia articles about them, and more generally Category:American Bahá'ís. Such prominence does not connote authority or priority within the religion but simply a degree of public recognition. William Sears was a sports commentator and television personality, and Louis Gregory was a prominent African-American lawyer, and both become prominent inside the religion as Hands of the Cause and Locke and Nelson were elected to the national spiritual assembly.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Henry H. Jessup, D.D., Makes an Eloquent and Instructive Address". The Inter Ocean. Chicago, Illinois. 24 September 1893. p. 2. Retrieved Feb 8, 2014.
  2. ^ a b Stockman, Robert H. (2009). "Chase, Thornton (1847–1912)". Bahá'í Encyclopedia Project. Evanston, IL: National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States. Archived from the original on 2016-10-12.
  3. ^ a b Linfoot (1970). "In Memoriam; Corine Knight True" (PDF). The Bahá'í World; An International Record. XIII, 1954–1963. Universal House of Justice. pp. 846–849.
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